The Secret Wisdom of the Earth|Christopher Scotton
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
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A marvelous debut...has everything a big, thick novel should have, and I hated to put it down. -- John Grisham

A page-turner. -- New York Times Book Review

For readers of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, this is a dramatic and deeply moving novel about an act of violence in a small Appalachian 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 town of Medgar, Kentucky, a 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 town 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. But when Buzzy witnesses a brutal hate crime, a sequence is set in play that will test Buzzy and Kevin to their absolute limits in an epic struggle for survival in the Kentucky mountains.

This item is Non-Returnable


  • ISBN-13: 9781455551927
  • ISBN-10: 1455551929
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publish Date: January 2015
  • Dimensions: 9.11 x 6.96 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.51 pounds
  • Page Count: 480

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.