Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Denise Giardina's Storming Heaven (1987)

This weekend I finished reading Storming Heaven, in which Denise Giardina tells the story of the Battle of Blair Mountain from the perspective of four fictional characters: C.J. Marcum, Carrie Bishop, Rosa Angelelli, and Rondal Lloyd.

The Battle of Blair Mountain took place in Logan County, West Virginia in August of 1921 and is considered to be the largest armed uprising by union organizers in US history.

The pro-union side was defeated (decisively) and their efforts were set back until the mid 1930's.

This book is beautifully written; Giardina's prose is up there with the best I've read. I also liked the map of the locations on the inside cover -- any book with a map at the beginning gets off to a great start for me (this goes back to reading The Hobbit when I was in 6th or 7th grade - I just loved the map of Middle Earth).

Here is a bit from Rondal:
We lived in Winco, West Virginia, once our homeplace.  American Coal Company owned our house. Richmond and Western Railroad owned our land.  Mommy never talked about the old days, but Daddy told me how it used to be. Our cabin had set on the same piece of ground as the company store, which was three stories high, with stone steps trailing up to plate glass windows ... Most of the houses were built around the hill where the cow and sheep had grazed. "The creek was clear as glass, and we used to git trout outen it, and bullfrogs," Daddy said.  "You aint et till you had frog legs. Now the creek wont run clear till kingdom come, I reckon. We let it get away from us."
My one criticism is that the four narrators share the same (general) perspective, and I would have liked if one of the major characters was struggling -- at least internally -- with the coal company perspective.

Reading this book felt very timely to me, with this spring's mining collapse in West Virginia (in which 29 miners were killed and Massey has come in for criticism for operating the mine negligently at best) and, more recently, the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  There is a long history of corporations versus people in the American quest for fossil fuels, and it is continuing today.

No comments:

Post a Comment