“Compelling Reworking”

I have enjoyed reading the novelist Barbara Kingsolver for many years. Each novel is original, unlike many authors who get in a pattern of a set locale or set time frame. In this 2022 book Kingsolver reworks Dickens’ David Copperfield with a character nicknamed Demon Copperhead by his friends and neighbors. Lovers of Dickens will find many characters in the book with names very similar to the original inspiration.

Kingsolver sets the book in very southwest Virginia, an area close to Tennessee and Kentucky, a part of the United States we think of as Appalachia. A region once supported by coal mining and tobacco farming, it is now better known for its abject poverty and opioid addiction. The poverty because the natural resources were tapped out. The opioid addiction because large pharmaceutical companies flooded the region with Oxycontin which they maintained was non-addictive.

At 560 pages this is not a quick read. In fact I read it in bits at a time allowing myself an opportunity to really take in the characters and their predicaments. Filled with violence, addiction, and hopelessness, Kingsolver’s writing also highlights the strengths of the people, their determination to get by and their tight family bonds.

I had no trouble connecting with David Copperfield before I had ever visited England. I hope that those of you who are unfamiliar with Appalachia can connect with this novel as well. Let me know what you think if you end up tackling it.

9 thoughts on ““Compelling Reworking”

  1. I am a lifelong lover of Dickens, and rarely (if at all) see the need to ‘rework’ any of the classic authors. However, I have great respect for your opinion, so will investigate this book further.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of her best I think as she manages to paint so many challenged characters with empathy. A real balm after one sided writing from Appalachia. I guess she moved back to Appalachia herself after roaming the world. It gives her a balanced view that is refreshing. I am reading Wendell Barry’s latest at the same time and it complements her book.

      Liked by 1 person

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