Friday, June 19, 2015

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

Debut fiction can be a bear. Many first time novelists pour so much into their first novel that readers have a hard time finding the plot. However, every once in a while a novel emerges with the voice of a writer well beyond his or her first novel.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is coming-of-age, sense of place, environmentalism, social commentary, and murder mystery all rolled into one well-written package. Based on the events that shaped his life, Christopher Scotton developed a novel that introduces the reader to unforgettable characters and a place that feels like home even to outsiders. The thing that struck me the most about the book is the careful consideration of each character’s upbringing and perspective. Arthur “Pops” Peebles, one of the main characters, is careful to not allow his grandson Kevin to condemn certain actions without understanding that upbringing plays a significant part in what people believe is right or wrong. Not everyone is given the same opportunities in life, which can impact the way people interact in society. You can't just label someone a hillbilly and assume they are willingly choosing to negate community norms.  
Scotton handles environmental issues with the same delicate hand. He is careful to demonstrate both sides of the debate concerning mining in Appalachia. The human and environmental devastation is immense, but the mines also provide work to economically depressed areas. It is a double-edged sword for the people of Medgar, Kentucky, and Scotton is careful to show both sides.

Christopher Scotton is not an author by trade. He knew he had a story to tell that would tie his childhood memories together, but it took him until almost forty to get it down on paper. The result is a finely crafted novel that will only make you eagerly await his next.

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