"We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."
The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet. Inspired by real-life events in now-infamous Centralia and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place.
Published May 13th 2014 by Audible Studios
Three and a half stars: A moving coming of age story as one young girl fights to keep her family together in trying circumstances.
At eleven years old, Brigid already bears a huge burden on her small shoulders. Brigid, her younger brother and her parents, live in Pennsylvania coal country with Brigid's aunt. Fires in the underground mines claim the life of her aunt, so Brigid and her family move in with her estranged grandparents. Unfortunately, her new home isn't an improvement. Her new town is also being consumed by fire and gasses from the mines. To make matters worse, her father is unable to hold down a job, her mother is miserable and her family seems to bear the brunt of a longstanding curse. As young Brigid fights for her family, she learns some hard truths, and discovers that people aren't always who you thought they were. Will Brigid find her way?
What I Liked:
- I found this to be an addictive little read. It is a rather simple story, all about the struggles of life, family secrets and the moment when a child learns that her parents aren't infallible, that they are in fact, human and prone to mistakes. Set against the burning coal mines of Pennsylvania, Ms. Harnett weaves an unforgettable, character driven story.
- Eleven year old Brigid Howely is the narrator of this tale. This is a character driven, coming of age story that focuses on how a young girl strives to keep her family together despite hardship, heartache and troubling family secrets. In the end, she finds her footing, makes an unexpected life long ally, and she learns that sometimes you can't cure what ails people you love no matter how hard you try. For me, one of the most riveting parts of the story was seeing Brigid slowly look at her parents through new eyes. As children, many of us grow up believing our parents are infallible, and we love them fiercely with child like ferocity, but then there comes that moment when one realizes that parents aren't perfect, and that the make plenty of mistakes. I was most impressed with young Brigid, and I enjoyed her journey, her growth and her transformation.
- This is a simplistic story, but fascinating none the less. There are some disturbing family secrets, murder, child abuse and lots of heartache. The plot isn't the driving force of the story, so don't go in expecting to be captivated by the secrets and mystery, instead it is a strong, character driven book that follows a young girl finding her way into adulthood.
- The highlight of the book for me was when Brigid discovers an unexpected ally and friend in her grandmother. After plenty of heartache, Brigid and the old lady finally see eye to eye. It takes almost the whole book to get to that point, but once it does, I loved seeing the two work together, and how they had each other's backs. I thought the relationship was well written, realistic and heartfelt.
- The book concludes in a nice spot. Brigid still has plenty of living to do at the end of the book, but I was pleased with her journey and satisfied with where she was headed. It is hopeful even though it is open ended. I finished certain that Brigid would find her way.
- I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook version. Luci Christian narrates the story, and I was immediately enamored with her voice. I thought she did an excellent job, and I had no issues with her work, her male voices were even good. I think that I wouldn't have enjoyed this as much reading it vs. listening because I thought that Luci completely captured the character's voices.
And The Not So Much:
- This is a bit of a challenging read because the cast of characters is for the most part unlikable. Thankfully, Brigid is the heart and soul of the novel, and she is easy to relate to. Her parents, on the other hand, are selfish and they both have some severe issues. Brigid's grandmother is abrasive, but she grows on you. However, even though the majority of the characters were hard to connect with, I appreciated that they were flawed and realistic.
- The plot is not strong, nor does it drive the story. In fact, it is hard to pick out the major plot of the story, other than Brigid's growth. There is a mystery surrounding a long ago accident in the mine where Brigid's dad's arm was maimed, and her uncle was killed. Later, Brigid and some friends discover a body in the mine, but again this isn't a that important either. This is mostly a book about a family struggling to survive in a harsh environment, and about people trying to overcome their pasts. If you enjoy a character driven, coming of age story, you will like this one, if you are looking for a riveting plot, this isn't for you.
- The overall tone of the book is rather dismal, and it was hard to watch Brigid's parents falter and make mistakes. This certainly isn't a light and fluffy read, but it is still one I won't forget either.
The Hollowed Ground was a terrific coming of age story that follows a young girl as she desperately tries to save her parents and keep her family together. Set in the small coal towns of Pennsylvania during the 1960s, this is an unforgettable journey of heartache, loss and hope. If you are a fan of character driven coming of age stories, I highly recommend checking this one out on audiobook. I thought the audiobook was fantastic.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Did you know that June is National Audiobook Month? I can't tell you how much I have grown to love audiobooks. If you haven't caught the audiobook bug yet, what are you wanting for? There are some terrific programs you can take advantage of such as Audible where for $15.00 a month you can have your choice of any audiobook delivered to your favorite device. Or you can also utilize your library. So get out and listen to an audiobook this month. In honor of National Audiobook month, I am pleased to be able to offer one lucky winner a chance to win a copy of The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Hartnett courtesy of the folks over at Audible. (Note: The winner will be given a code to download a copy via Audible.) To enter read the Contest Policies and fill out the Rafflecopter. Open to U.S. Residents only. Good Luck!
Check out a sample of The Hollow Ground: