Friday, May 26, 2006

Book Review: Storming Heaven

I’ve experienced the “you can’t judge a book by its cover” syndrome. Since I am currently blacklisted at the library until I pay my rather hefty fees, my friends have been supplying me with books. Amy loaned me Denise Giardina’s Storming Heaven. When I looked at it, I thought: “A romance novel? How weird for Amy!” The cover looked all sunset-like and pink. (It wasn’t until I was a quarter of the way through the book that I realized this cover was actually a rendering of a coal-mining town.) Au contraire—this is not a fluffy book in any fashion. In fact, it reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favorite books, Richard Llewelynn’s How Green Was My Valley. Storming Heaven is the story of people whose way of life was altered forever when the coal company came in, taking their land and robbing the mountains—people who fought back ultimately by trying to organize a union. It is just hard to even comprehend the events that took place on Blair Mountain in West Virginia, when the U.S. Army was called into “disband” the pro-union miners with guns, bombs, and poison gas.

Reading this book is for me like going to the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge and reading about the families whose farms were ripped out from under them when the Secret City was built. It’s just all so heartbreaking. Mountains stripped; old home places tossed aside like scraps of lumber; family farms buried under asphalt.