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The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
by Christopher Scotton


Overview - Timely and timeless, this is a dramatic and deeply moving novel about an act of violence in a small, Southern town and the repercussions that will forever change a young man's view of human cruelty and compassion.
After seeing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, fourteen-year-old Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin's grandfather.
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More About The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
 
 
 
Overview
Timely and timeless, this is a dramatic and deeply moving novel about an act of violence in a small, Southern town and the repercussions that will forever change a young man's view of human cruelty and compassion.
After seeing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, fourteen-year-old Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin's grandfather. In this peeled-paint coal town deep in Appalachia, Kevin quickly falls in with a half-wild hollow kid named Buzzy Fink who schools him in the mysteries and magnificence of the woods. The events of this fateful summer will affect the entire town of Medgar, Kentucky.
Medgar is beset by a massive mountaintop removal operation that is blowing up the hills and back filling the hollows. Kevin's grandfather and others in town attempt to rally the citizens against the "company" and its powerful owner to stop the plunder of their mountain heritage. When Buzzy witnesses a brutal hate crime, a sequence is set in play that tests Buzzy and Kevin to their absolute limits in an epic struggle for survival in the Kentucky mountains.
Redemptive and emotionally resonant, THE SECRET WISDOM OF THE EARTH is narrated by an adult Kevin looking back on the summer when he sloughed the coverings of a boy and took his first faltering steps as a man. His story is one with a rich cast of characters and an ambitious effort to reclaim a once great community.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781455551927
  • ISBN-10: 1455551929
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publish Date: January 2015
  • Page Count: 480


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Literary

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-11-24
  • Reviewer: Staff

Scotton’s accomplished debut is the story of Kevin Gillooly, a 14-year-old boy who moves to coal country and learns about courage and violence, beauty and danger, from his wise, weathered grandfather and a best friend well versed in backwoods survival. Kevin’s mother brings him to her hometown of Medgar, Ky., after the death of Kevin’s three-year-old brother. Kevin’s grandfather Pops is a large-animal veterinarian and hires Kevin as an assistant. Pops also introduces him to books like Treasure Island and gives him time off to explore the surrounding mountains with his friend and confidant Buzzy Fink, who teaches Kevin how to use slugs to treat spider bites and other survival skills. Kevin sees land destroyed by mining, hears exploding mountaintops, and feels the fly-rock, while Buzzy witnesses the beating of gay hairdresser and anti-mining activist Paul Pierce. Both Kevin and Buzzy are tested during a camping trip with Pops, when an unknown assailant tracks them down and opens fire in the wilderness. Scotton’s cast of classic Appalachian characters also includes housekeeper Audy Rae, Cleo the high school football hero, the violent and inbred Budget family, and an array of old men shooting the breeze at Hivey’s. The coming-of-age story is enriched by depictions of the earth’s healing and redemptive power. Neither the first portrait of mining country nor the most original, Scotton’s novel nonetheless makes for compelling reading when the action grows intense—managing, like the landscape it describes, to be simultaneously frightening and beautiful. (Jan.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A summer on the homestead

Kevin Gillooly, the teenage protagonist of Christopher Scotton’s debut novel, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, returns with his mother to her Eastern Kentucky hometown of Medgar after the horrific accidental death of his 3-year-old brother. Kevin’s father hopes a summer under the care of Pops, the family’s cantankerous patriarch and the town veterinarian, will restore the devastated Anne. For Kevin, his time in Medgar is not a retreat, but an introduction to the thorny issues of adulthood, as well as the healing power of nature, thanks to his friendship with Buzzy Fink, a local boy who instructs Kevin in the ways of wilderness.

The town knew better days when the nearby coal mines were productive. Now people are selling off their ancestral lands for the latest in coal extraction: mountaintop removal, which destroys the landscape. In a place with more poverty than opportunity, the choice to sell is a tempting one. A small group of townspeople oppose the powerful mining interests, including Pops. As Kevin accompanies Pops on his veterinary rounds into the hills and hollows, he begins to see what happens when a community loses its connection to its history—a connection Kevin has just discovered for himself, thanks to his time on the family homestead.

Among the novel’s many joys are its characters, which add humor, drama and heartbreak to this layered story. Though a few are just this side of stereotypical (the gay hairdresser, the sassy housekeeper, the repugnant mine company boss), they illustrate the way years of common experience and friendship can be tested by change and hardship. This affecting coming-of-age story faithfully portrays environmental concerns alongside rich family histories.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews