Angela and I

Angela and I

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I Read: The Coal Tattoo

"There was complete peace.  And Anneth knew why she felt this terrible sadness; she feared that she would never know what that felt like, to know for certain that what she was doing was what she most wanted to do in her life.  To have that look of assuredness and happiness upon her face.  She was positive that such knowledge would never come to her."

I recently finished "The Coal Tattoo" by Silas House, an Appalachian tale told through the eyes of two sisters - Easter, a devout Pentecostal woman, and Anneth, who longs for something more.

Why I read it: I started reading this because I found it on a bookshelf in my house and it looked intriguing (sometimes I can't help but judge a book by it's cover).  Little did I know that it would be set in the exact geographical location and time period as the role I will soon be playing in the musical "The Burnt Part Boys"!  It is set in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains and spans from 1960-1970, and the musical is in the West Virginia hills in 1962. I love reading books set in my home state and by Kentucky authors, even though I don't always perfectly identify with my place of birth. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, and from the first few pages I could tell that the lyrical descriptions were going to take me right up to the mountains. I was sold.

What I loved: This book was definitely character driven as opposed to plot driven. There was no single, specific climax followed by falling action and a nice, neat, conclusion.  However if I'm being honest, I prefer novels like this.  I think that relationships and connections between characters are often all the dramatic content we need.  I was completely intrigued by Easter and Anneth's relationship because sisterhood is a very important thing to me - not only with my biological sister, but with the women I have become close friends with who have shaped and molded my life.  I'm looking at you Robyn, Sarah, Jessica, Catie, Alex, are also my sisters who I have incredibly strong bonds with and who have made me who I am today!  I adored seeing the similarities and differences between the two women - something I see reflected in myself and my sister who are also five years apart and annoyingly close.  One reason I love character driven literature is that often times it's more honest.  It's not about the protagonist meeting the perfect mate, everything leading up to that moment, and then the moment arrives.  Anneth's journey is much more believable and similar to how we navigate the waters of falling in and out of love with others as well as in and out of love with ourselves.

Why you should read it:
-If you are from the great state of KY: The writing alone is enough to bring tears to your eyes.  The characters in this story have a deep connection to the earth, and if you are from Kentucky, or just love it for whatever reason, this book is a great way to spend a day in the Appalachian hills.
-If the sacred bond of sisterhood is important to you: The two sisters in this novel differ in a lot of ways.  Easter finds comfort in God, while Anneth feels restless and lonely.  But at their core they are both driven by love, compassion, and their loyalty to each other.
-If you enjoy the works of Barbara Kingsolver or Sena Jeter Naslund: There must be something in the water here that makes authors awesome.  I couldn't help but be reminded of these two ladies (who are also authors I adore) while reading this book.  Definitely check this out if you like any of their work!

"All my life I've been looking for magic in all the wrong places. Some kind of proof that magic truly does exist in this world.  I didn't even realize that magic was in everything, that it happened every day.  But now I know."

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