"Mining companies piled trash coal in a slag heap and set it ablaze. The coal burned up, but the slate didn't. The heat turned it rose and orange and lavender. The dirt road I lived on was paved with that sharp-edged rock. We called it red dog.Read more...
"Mining companies piled trash coal in a slag heap and set it ablaze. The coal burned up, but the slate didn't. The heat turned it rose and orange and lavender. The dirt road I lived on was paved with that sharp-edged rock. We called it red dog. Grandma told me, Don't you go running on that red dog road. But I do."
Gypsies, faith-healers, moonshiners, and snake handlers weave through Drema's childhood in 1940s Appalachia after her father is killed in the coal mines, her mother goes off to work as a Rosie the Riveter, and she is left in the care of devout Pentecostal grandparents. What follows is a spitfire of a memoir that reads like a novel with intrigue, sweeping emotion, and indisputable charm. Drema's coming of age is colored by tent revivals with Grandpa, poetry-writing hobos, and traveling carnivals, and through it all, she serves witness to a multi-generational family of saints and sinners whose lives defy the stereotypes. Just as she defies her own.
Running On Red Dog Road is proof that truth is stranger than fiction, especially when it comes to life and faith in an Appalachian childhood.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-02-08
- Reviewer: Staff
In this charming, lyrical memoir of growing up in Appalachia, Berkheimer melds anecdotes and religious explorations to explain her rustic upbringing, which was heavily influenced by a radical Pentecostalism. Berkheimer’s voice is captivating, bringing a vast array of strange but thoughtful characters to life: vagabonds, faith healers, farmers, and miners. When young Berkheimer visits a carnival, she discovers a strange world that’s foreign to her West Virginia childhood. The flow of life becomes clearer when her grandparents die; only then does this innocent girl understand that there is a reality beyond the coal mines and the little Pentecostal church where her grandfather preached every other week. Weaving together recollections from relatives, musings on religious knowledge, and personal stories of enlightenment, Berkheimer candidly brings her personality to the page in this incredible journey from naïveté to wide-eyed maturity. (Apr.)