Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Stoner is the name he went by, and if he said nice things to Mom, she was all ears. By now she’s been sober long enough to keep her Walmart job through all restocks of the seasonal aisles: Halloween costumes, Santa crap, Valentines, Easter candy, folding lawn chairs. She’s up on the rent and has her drawer full of sobriety chips that she takes out late at night and looks over like a dragon sitting on its treasure. That much I remember. Mom getting home from work and into her cutoffs, cracking open a Mello Yello, sitting on our deck smoking with her feet up on the rail and her legs stretched out trying for the free version of a tan, yelling at Maggot and me down in the creek not to get our eyes put out from running with sticks. Life is great, in other words.

This is Barbara Kingsolver’s rewriting of David Copperfield to today’s Appalachia. I mistakenly got it as a cheerful Christmas present for Anne, and in fact it is crashingly grim reading. Dickens’ whimsy is replaced by gritty reportage of the poverty trap that has hit West Virginia (and many other places); in particular the opioid crisis is depicted in a human and humane and also horrifying way, much more effectively than I have seen in any reportage. It’s totally engrossing but not a cheerful read. Recommended all the same. You can get it here.

This hit the top of three of my piles at once – top unread book acquired last year, top unread book by a woman, and top unread non-genre book. Next on the first of those piles is A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes, by Adam Rutherford, and on the other two it’s Winter, by Ali Smith.