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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Beyond the Book: Review Demon Copperhead



Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperheadspeaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.

My Review

Believe it or not, my seventh grade math teacher nagged me to read this book. I’d never even heard of it. (Actually, if you consider my age it’s a wonder she’s still with us. She has an eye condition that prevents her from reading so she listens to books instead. She’s a great lady. She taught math to me and both of my boys.) Anyway, my first thought after I finished the book was “Wow what a story!”

The book was so interesting it kept me turning pages to see what happened next, yet at the same time I could only read so much of it without coming up for air. It was an excellent book, but it was sometimes hard to read. I live in the foothills of South Carolina on the fringes of Appalachia so I’ve known some people like Demon. I was a teacher so students told me things that could crush your soul. I had one student whose family lived in an old school bus with no heat or running waster. Another lived in a barn because her mother didn’t want her around when Mama’s boyfriend moved in. Another wrote such dark poetry I would have referred her to the guidance counselor if she wasn’t already going to one. There were others, some worse than anything I mentioned. Demon Copperhead would have fit right in. 

So, yes, the book is dark. So dark. Yet I found the ending full of hope. I meant to say more about the ending, but I don’t think I should. Knowing about the ending wouldn’t spoil the book, but I feel you have to experience the story as it happens. 

If anyone has read the book I’d love to hear how you felt about it.

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