Journal

Lee County: The Setting of Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead and Land of my Pioneer Ancestors

When I pick up a new book, I first look at the blurb regarding its content and the photograph and bio of the author on the dust jacket. Next, I open the book and turn to the Acknowledgments section at the end. In the case of Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Demon Copperhead, she begins her roll call of credits with these words: “I’m grateful to “Charles Dickens for writing David Copperfield, his impassioned critique of institutional poverty and its damaging effect on children in his society. Those problems are still with us. In adapting his novel to my own place and time, working for years with his outrage, inventiveness, empathy at my elbows, I’ve come to think of him as my genius friend.”

Turning my attention back to the front flap of the dust jacket, I read the précis of the plot: “Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through it all, he reckons with his own inability in a popular culture where even superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.”

So where does the plot of Kingsolver’s novel unfold? More often than not, authors write about the locations with which they are intimately familiar. Turning to the back flap of the dust jacket, I learned that Kingsolver “lives with her husband on a farm in southern Appalachia.” Such is the setting for Demon Copperhead, defined more closely as Lee County, Virginia (named in honor of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, not the famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee), a cartographical anomaly, since its boundaries form a 437-square mile triangle at the southwestern tip of Virginia where the Cumberland Gap ties a tri-state knot between its borders and those of Kentucky and Tennessee.

With its scenic agricultural landscape, Lee County is an improbable setting for the societal dysfunction that informs Kingsolver’s novel. I received moreover a jolt of surprise after I read the first pages of the book. My ah-ha moment came with the realization that I was already quite familiar with the landscape of Lee County, which I call Ancestor Land, since it is one of the locations on my itinerary of Family Footsteps trips taken as part of a genealogical research project I have undertaken. Therefore, in writing this review I will indulge myself in occasional discursive fragments dealing with a particular ancestor’s biography or recent experiences I had on my visits to Lee County, these things being the reasons for the “I-know-this-place” moments of recognition I had when I read Kingsolver’s novel.

Because I have grown to love this southeastern part of our country as much as I do the American West, I will here temporarily forsake my role as book reviewer and act as a travel itinerary planner. Readers like me who put a premium on certain novelists’ descriptive powers in unfolding their plots by giving their protagonists’ roles to play within a particular place-based setting often wish to travel to destinations they know through literature. At the same time, all one may wish for in order to enjoy traveling to a place of choice is a paperback travel guide. All you need from me here are these few words: For those of you who like to go fishing, photograph scenic panoramas of the setting sun draping mountain ranges with a pink chiffon scarf, wish to camp beside clear streams, like to take nature walks or hike in tree-forested mountains a trip to Lee County and adjacent parts of southwestern Virginia would be a good choice. I for one would now like to extend my forays into southwestern Virginia for on-site family research into excursions of vacation pleasure.

Travelling in the Footsteps of my Ancestors

On my mother’s side, my forebears, the Dysarts and Ewings, are Scotch-Irish. Seeking pre-emigration origins of these two families, I have traveled to County Fife outside of Edinburgh, County Londonderry in Northern Ireland’s province of Ulster before continuing my journey with them throughout the southeastern United States where they settled as pioneers in the late eighteenth-century. From Lee County and adjacent Washington County, Virginia, I have followed them to Buchanan County in the northwestern corner Missouri, from there to Ellis County in western Oklahoma, where the small railroad town of Shattuck was my mother’s, girlhood home, and from here to Bexar County, Texas, where I was born and grew up in the city of San Antonio.

Several of the most memorable hours in this sequence of trips to localize the lives of my ancestors were spent in Lee County. I won’t narrate more than a few biographical facts about the Dysarts and the Ewings from my maternal ancestral line, and these will be supplied only where coincidental connections exist with sites that Kingsolver’s descriptions triggered in my mind. In this way I was able to see the Lee County landscape through a telescope that collapsed the cultural and social changes that have occurred with the passage of time over seven generations.

James Dysart as Long Hunter, Patriot, and Presbyterian

I like to imagine him, my great-great-great grandfather James Dysart, as a seventeen-year-old boy in 1761 as he made his departure from Brook Hall where his family had a leasehold on the banks of the River Foyle. Following words of leave-taking, he would have been rowed across the river to the port of Londonderry, a major disembarkation point in northern Ireland for Scotch-Irish emigrants bound for the eastern seaboard of America – in most cases the port of Philadelphia.

Like the rest of his Scotch-Irish countrymen, James Dysart was a covenanted Presbyterian but his motive in finding his new American homeland, however, was not a religious one in which he sought freedom to practice this form Protestantism so much as one directed toward worldly gain through the acquisition of land and consequent quest for wealth.

As it turned out, in the beginning James would seek his fortune in an unconventional way when he was invited by Henry Skaggs, an experienced long hunter, to join his party on the first of what would be James’s three expeditions for as much as six months each time into the wilderness areas around the Cumberland mountains. The purpose of these expeditions was to amass pelts for commercial fur trade. Not surprisingly, long hunter parties often included trail-blazing explorers, many of whom surveyed desirable land for future settlement.

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Doctor Thomas Walker was one such explorer with an eye toward land ripe for prospective settlers, and the names of some of the men in his party, including that of Ambrose Powell, were given to rivers and valleys in adjacent to the Cumberland Gap. Kingsolver’s mention of the Powell Valley in Lee County, where two Ewing brothers were first owners of a recently surveyed 600-acre property they named The Dividing, popped off the page as I read Demon Copperhead. In addition, Dr. Thomas Walker’s name was given to the principal road traversing the towns of Ewing and Rose Hill as well as to the high school in Ewing where I sat in on a ninth-grade history class one day.

Thomas Walker High School is home of the Pioneer football team, and remembering this makes me wonder if it was the archetype for the football team called Guardians in Kingsolver’s book, on which David Copperhead was a star player until a permanent knee injury led him into a life of drug addiction. Otherwise, Kingsolver may have had in mind the high school in Lee County’s capital Jonesville, which boasts the varsity Comets.

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The greatest pleasures I had on my trips to Lee Country occurred when I was able to drive through the landscape and look at its unfolding rural scenery and wilderness mountain areas. I especially remember one view from the hilltop site of the Ewing cemetery where, after examining some of the headstones of family members, I gazed at the prominent geological stratum called the White Rocks near the top of the ridge on the opposite side of Highway 58. This was in fact a historic landmark because of its renown as a sight that served as a travelers’ sign indicating for emigrants jolting along on Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road in their Conestoga wagons that they were fifteen miles away from the Cumberland Pass.

Highway 58 is an historic entity in its own right, being the most recent stratum of paving over Boone’s Wilderness Road, which in turn was built on top of his Wilderness Trail. Go to this description for modern day travelers. and you will be better informed not only about the larger landscape in which Kingsolver has set her novel but also inspired with a desire to travel the 350-mile route of Highway 58 through southwestern Virginia yourself.

Here is what Demon Copperhead has to say about it:
Out by the Cumberland bluffs we got out of the car to walk around that park they have, and stood looking up at the cliffs that go on and on, for the last hundred miles of Virginia. I wondered how it would be up there on top, looking down. My brain kept going back to that over and over, wondering how it would feel to jump off. Not to die necessarily, just to see how it felt to be a boy flying through the air. You can’t help what goes through your head.

Demon’s descriptive powers (that is, Kingsolver’s) are also evident in these words: “We walked to where we could see the sun hit the ridge, and the dark start to pour down the valley.”

It is pleasant to think of Lee County as a paradise for mountain trail hikers, nature photographers, and road-trip tourists. It certainly has such attractions, but it is also a place of vanished industrial wealth from coal mining, and a residual farm economy rooted in the ethos of Appalachia, and a spiritual energy due the fact that it is one piece of the Bible Belt with mainline Protestant churches rather than a place of evangelical mega-churches with theatrical grandstanding by ministerial orators.

On another occasion, the author pinpoints the nature of place with specific geographical exactitude in a conversation between Demon and a fellow foster-child friend:

“So where are you living now, man?”
“Got my own place. Close to fifty acres up by Cedar Hill.”
“Sweet, your own farm. Is it over by where they have the bison?” “A few miles shy of then. North side of 58.”

Long hunter Animal hide being dried at Martin’s Station

The word “bison” rang a bell for me. Here I recognized that Demon’s friend was referring to the Virginia Wilderness Road State Park in Ewing. I have been there twice, mainly to walk around Martin’s Station, a replica of the kind of depot where long hunters dried their hides of skinned animals and put them in storage piles for transport later to points where they would be tanned, sold, and shipped to mercantile buyers. Some of these hides might be those of bison – aka buffalos – since these animals still existed in the eighteenth century in woodlands like those in southwestern Virginia. Long hunter stations such as the one that has been replicated in the Wilderness Road State Park were also used as layover places for tired and hungry men to eat a hot meal, sleep on a straw mattress, feed their horses, and restock their packs with provisions for the next hunt.

By happenstance my first visit to the park occurred on the day of its autumn festival during which re-enactors added a theatrical show-and-tell aspect to the area surrounding Martin’s Station.

As for the bison, Ted and I, along with our friend Reuben Rainey who was accompanying us on this trip, walked down a short trail nearby the visitor center where we found a bison grazing in a field of green grass while the rest of the herd was somewhere out of sight, perhaps in a nearby corral munching hay. On our way back to the parking lot, we were greeted by a trim, middle-age woman in running shoes who was returning from a fitness lap past the bison pasture. Smilingly eager to talk with us, almost her first words were, “God spoke to me!” I never learned the exact circumstances that brought about this ecstatic exclamation, but after she and I sat down together on a trailside wall, from what she said I surmised something of her plucky life story. It appeared that she had received instructions from on High encouraging her to abandon a dysfunctional ordinary life and leave home.

I have a hard time imagining what problems this athletically dressed, cheerful, and energetic woman may have had, but recalling Demon Copperhead’s decency, intelligence, and doggedness in the face of discouraging odds, I now reckon that I might have been meeting the same cheerful fortitude in the flesh. “Now I am living in my car,” Donna said, “and I am running every day. “I was over at the big park this morning where they have a longer trail than the one here, she said, pointing toward the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. I was interested to learn what part-time jobs she took to support herself, where she got food, if she saw friends or ever socialized in a group, and if anywhere, which place of worship – one of the four nearby Baptist churches perhaps? – had prepared her to recognize God’s voice being channeled to her receptive soul.

I would have liked to invite myself to sit down with Donna in her car for a few minutes in order to bring our conversation to a more informative conclusion. I also wanted to see how she had equipped the vehicle to serve as a quasi-domestic habitat, but I didn’t think it would be fair of me to have Ted and Reuben waiting until I was ready to continue our trip. This would entail driving a few miles west on Highway 58 and forking onto Route 25E, which would take us from Lee County through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel into to Bell County, KY. Once over the border, we would be in Middleboro and only a short distance from our overnight accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express and dinner in steak house conveniently nearby.

The next day, after a good night’s sleep, Reuben and Ted reminded me that this was a family-footsteps tour for me and I had other places on my ancestor-focused itinerary. Heading back after breakfast into Lee County through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, we continued driving five miles east on Highway 58 to a cut off that took us across the median strip and uphill to Dr. Thomas Walker Road, which runs along the ridge connecting the towns of Ewing and Rose Hill while serving as the main street of each. Making our way along the 1,400-feet-high forested plateau, we found ourselves in Ewing where I began a cursory survey of the negligibly urbanized of Thomas Walker Road with no place from which to take photos except across from the movie theater and adjacent post office, both of which was closed.

Main Street, Rose Hill, Lee County, Virginia.

To put thing into perspective, today, out of Lee County’s population of just over twenty-two thousand, Rose Hill has a population of about eight hundred, which is twice the number of Ewing, and the business center is principally a string of stores along the highway. At its intersection with Daydream Drive there are signs for The Lord’s House Church and a video store called Entertainment Overload. As I was leaving town, another sign on the margin of the highway caught my eye: a placard with a Trump-Pence 2016 presidential campaign slogan. To put the sleepy scenes of “main street” Ewing and Rose Hill into perspective and, more important, give me demographic information about Lee County as a whole, I returned to the Internet. Here I discovered that forty-five percent of children under eighteen live below the poverty line. Other data from this online source helped me statistically contextualize the lives of Kingsolver’s characters.

Continuing on Highway 58 and driving east again, there was one particular sightseeing stop I wished to make in order to visit the Ely Mound, an archaeological site on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, also designated as an important monument on the Virginia Landmarks Register.

When writing my book Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History, I had visited the famous Native American mounds at Cahokia, which are directly across the Mississippi River from modern St. Louis. Missouri. How could I not want to see the mound in Lee County, a specimen of earth art that served as a religious center for the forebears of the Cherokee warriors known to James Dysart, who had been an Indian fighter a well as a long hunter, and less belligerently, to Joshua Ewing as a pioneer settler with property in the Powell Valley of Lee County. They of, course, would have been oblivious of the fact the hillock on land that now has the address 3744 Dr. Thomas Walker Road was more than a farm field oddity. Nor would they have known of the mound’s relationship to the Cherokee, who were descendants of the Native American Mississippian culture that flourished in what is now the Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern parts of the United States from about 700 CE until the arrival of the first European explorers when the diaspora of the Native Americans who constituted the Mississippian culture caused their dispersal into independent subsidiary tribes. These included the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Seminole, an historical fact that probably accounts for the Cherokee becoming inhabitants of the large part of southwestern Virginia: forested lands along the North Fork of the Holston River and a territorial expanse including parts of the Cumberland mountains abutting Washington and Lee counties. Their presence in these areas in the eighteenth century made them natural enemies of long hunters like James Dysart and a threat to pioneer farmers such as Joshua Ewing.

At the risk of being tediously diversionary when my main aim is to write a book review, I have copied here the information about Ely Mound provided by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on a roadside plaque, the earlier sight of which had first excited the landscape-historian part of me when I pulled over on side of Highway 58 and stopped to read it on my first trip to Lee County:

Dates from Late Woodland-Mississippi period (AD1300–1650) during which more complex societies, including chiefdoms and religious ceremonies. Often, temples, elite residences, and council building stood atop substructures or townhouse mounds such as Ely Mound. Lucien Carr, assistant curator of the Peabody Museum in Boston, led the excavation here in 1877. Carr documents the human remains and objects discovered by his excavations of the mound, while also refuting the then-popular “lost race” hypothesis for Mound builders in eastern North America

The gist of the rest of the text is corroborated and expanded in the entry in the Encyclopedia Virginia Encyclopedia, which can be found online.

The reason for my current detour into landscape history and Native American archaeology is for the purpose of introducing a perhaps irrelevant account of an unexpected brief encounter with a friendly stranger whose answer to a question of mine connects my visit to Ely Mound to Kingsolver’s book in a peripheral but significant way.

To return to Highway 58 and our search for Ely Mound, we were handicapped by our confusion as we drove one way and then the other looking for the mound, which was not as visible to us from the car as it should have been. We never did spot it from the this perspective, but l was soon able to exclaim “Eureka!” when I noticed a street sign for Indian Mound Dr. We turned in onto a dirt track, and although not immediately spotting the main attraction for which we were looking, we kept driving toward some beautiful mountains until we sensibly decided to turn back toward the highway. Unexpectedly, we soon found ourselves in sight of a grass-covered gently sloping, smoothly graded conical hill a few feet beyond the fence line beside the rough but scenic road we had been following. When we drew up and stopped the car next to the pasture where the mound was in sight I realized that I would have been dead wrong if I had imagined any kind of tourist attraction with a welcoming entrance gate. This made me understand why for most people, including the farmer named Ely who once owned the property and the resident who now owns what has been converted into a six-acre residential lot, the mound is simply a conical knoll with a barn penetrating the flank of one side.

I saw a man driving a tractor that was making parallel tracks in an empty field on the opposite the side of the road where we had parked car next to the part of the fence closest to the mound. He got off the tractor and came over to where I stood, nervous that we were going to be apprehended for trespassing. “I’m Betsy Rogers,” I said, and holding out a work-calloused hand, he replied “Billy Crockett.” When I told him that we desired to see Ely Mound up close, in a friendly manner he opened the fence gate for us, and Ted summited the mound in an easy walk up one of its gentle slopes (no actual climbing involved here!), while I stayed a few feet below to take pictures.

When we returned to the bottom of the mound, we found Crockett waiting for us while taking a break from plowing the empty field on which there was nothing else but clods of dry soil in parallel rows lumped up on either side of the tractor’s wheel marks. This made me wonder if some kind of grain was going to be planted or perhaps tobacco, a common crop in this area as the orphaned Demon Copperhead well knew, having been given the job of stripping sheaves of reaped, sun-cured tobacco by one of the child-exploiting farmers who was paid by the State to be a foster parent to boys like him.

Since our visit to the mound had been brief, we were in no rush to thank Crockett and say goodbye. In my short conversation with him I inquired about the nature of Lee County’s economy and the jobs available for people living in Rose Hill, which is directly opposite Ely Mound. Thinking that in such a fertile landscape, there still might be farmers, such as was the case 250 years ago when my Ewing ancestors tilled these same Powell Valley fields. (I am here experiencing a moment of remorseful reckoning when I remember that they did not farm with tractors and other mechanical equipment but instead used enslaved humans as farm laborers). I am still trying fathom the meaning of Crockett’s cryptic answer to my query about the kinds of employment that existed in these parts: “The government.”

Kingsolver’s protagonist, Demon Copperhead could elaborate on this, for isn’t the DSS (Department of Social Services) a government agency? Of course it is, inasmuch as it assigns hired social workers, usually young women, to serve as caseworkers who periodically give counsel to children who are growing into adulthood under the often punitive care of foster parents paid to give them food, shelter, and clothes. Understandably, as they get older, in order to release themselves from relentlessly enforced drudgery, these children often go out on their own when they become adolescents. Their typical jobs may be cleaning out commercial garbage dumps, serving as underpaid personnel at fast-food franchises, or arranging products on the shelves at Walmart’s. Such was the nature of Demon’s job opportunities.

As self-employed entrepreneurs, some of these teenagers become drug dealers in a usually empty parking lot known serve as a market where ad hoc dope dealers sell corrupt physicians’ prescriptions for oxycodone and other addictive medicines such as codeine and fentanyl plus opiates like heroin and morphine obtained through prior trafficking.

What other choices do these “fosters” have as they grow into sexually active maturity when drugs become an increasingly potent element in their love lives and getting high can sometimes lead beyond romance to to death by overdose?

Barbara Kingsolver lays out the problem. To live in a place that you still love like Lee Country is hard going. It is a mistake to think of this triangular tip of Virginia as an impoverished backwater with a drug-addicted population. Here is how she explains it: “Dead in the heart of Lee County, between the Ruelynn coal camp and a settlement people call Right Poor, the top of the road between two steep mountains is where our single-wide (the trailer home where Demon was born) was set. I wasted more hours up on those woods than you’d want to count, alongside of a boy named Maggot, wading the creek and turning over big ricks and being mighty.”

To digress once more into the account of my ancestors’ lives, reading Kingsolver’s words referring to the once-thriving industry of mining Lee County’s particular geological coal formation, made me recall my visit to Abingdon in Washington Country, a hundred miles to the east of Lee County. It was here that I was able to pick up the part of James Dysart’s life story following his last wilderness foray as long hunter when, in 1775, after having been awarded the rank of colonel in the Revolutionary War, he married Nancy Agnus Beattie, the daughter of a wealthy Scotch-Irish Abingdon landowner, who gave the couple more than two hundred acres near the family home as a wedding present.

After being a citizen of Abingdon for thirty years, James lived out the rest of his life in Rockcastle Country, Kentucky, where Henry Skaggs and other former long hunters were his neighbors. By the time of his death in 1818, Abingdon had lost its frontier appearance and was beginning to be transformed into a prosperous town with Federal-style houses on tree-shaded residential streets, evidence of the growing industrial prosperity from mining the rich deposits of coal that had been discovered in 1740 in Virginia.

The stamp put on Abingdon by wealthy owners of mines is still evident as you walk down Main Street and the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Even though this part of Appalachia, along with the North Fork of the Powell River basin in Lee County, remains an active coal-mining region, the former prosperity of Abingdon is tarnished. Nevertheless, the Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church built in 1831at the corner of Main and Pecan Streets still has an active congregation. The original hewn log church, built in the early 1770s when James Dysart was an active force in both political and ecclesial affairs, has been rebuilt, relocated, and renovated several times, most recently in 2004. Nevertheless, because of the fact that my maternal ancestors’ Scotch-Irish Presbyterianism has been carried through all the generations in my family down to the present day while incorporating to a degree a more liberal and contemporary religious ethos, I myself occasionally attend services at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian church in New York and the First Presbyterian Church in my hometown San Antonio. In honor of my ancestors, I decided to go to Sunday service at the Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church on my first visit to Abingdon in 2016.

Like other Presbyterian churches today, it has very little of the liturgical character of the eighteenth-century Presbyterianism practiced by the Dysarts. I appreciated the beauty of the sanctuary and the melodious choir and was happy to be warmly welcomed on the front steps of the church after the service by the minister, whose imminent retirement had been confirmed that day. As several members of the congregation were giving him heartfelt thanks and wishing him Godspeed, I was glad to be greeted with their welcoming words, while at the same time noticing an old-fashioned kind of conservatism on their part.

When I returned on my following trip in 2017 I did not attend the church service but instead met with the then recently installed new minister whose tenure would turn out to be short-lived since, not long after his ordination the prior year, he later decided to accept a call to become the pastor of a Presbyterian church where the congregation had more liberal values. I was happy, however, to be meeting with him and having an lighthearted conversation on theological subjects, one jokey remark of his being aimed at the Calvinist belief in the Almighty’s pre-election of souls to be saved at the time of the Last Judgment, which humorously engendered their designation as “the frozen chosen.” A further amusing elaboration on this was the retort his gives to persons who ask the question, “When were you saved?” which he claims to be 30 CE, the age of Christ at the time of his death when he shed his blood for the salvation of all mankind.

Changing to local subjects of interest to me, I asked him, “How would you characterize Abingdon?” He put the answer to the question succinctly in two words: “Dope sick.” Looking surprised, I asked him why this was so, and he told me that, with so many coal mines closing down, members of the current generation no longer enjoyed the wealth their parents knew and that there were no jobs other than menial ones for them. (As a matter of statistics, in 2017 Appalachian counties had an opioid overdose death rate that was 72 percent higher than that in most counties elsewhere in the county.)

Here is what Demon Copperhead has to say on the nature of dope-sickness and the difficulty of deciding to begin rehab:

The truth is, I was scared blind to make a promise like that on my own. I’d been playing head games on how heavy I was using . . . . Look at me, getting my ass up and out. Nothing out of control here. Tiptoeing around the morphine. I’d still never injected anything, for the sole reason of needles making my skin crawl, but I told myself that was a line between pastime and hard-core that I was refusing to cross. Pretending I could still show up on time as a human, even if I’d been fired from Sonic and more places after that. Not for slaking, I mashed orders double time. But you’d not have wanted to share space with me and a deep fryer, let’s leave it at that.

Besides savoring Kingsolver’s brilliant writing with its use of dirty-word contemporary colloquialisms to give veracity to the portrayal of character, my personal familiarity with the book’s Lee County setting increased my place-based enlightenment through the underlying theme of Demon Copperhead. Wherever you may live or travel, this is a novel that strikes close to home, when you realize that the United States as a whole is experiencing a prolonged epidemic in which, since 2000, more than a million people have died of drug overdoses, the majority of which were due to opioids. Demon Copperhead, however, is much more than a literary polemic. Like its nineteenth-century archetype David Copperfield, it is an insightfully delightful coming-of-age story about disadvantaged orphan boy for whom we develop both sympathy and admiration as he experiences many hard knocks, some self-afflicted, before finally becoming a rehabilitated drug addict with gratitude for the stable life in front of him not in a vibrant city like Nashville but within the rural familiarity of his native place of the heart, Lee County. I can only rate the pleasurable importance of this book as a superb successor to its classic nineteenth-century archetype by remarking that is too bad that Charles Dickens isn’t here to acknowledge Barbara Kingsolver as his “genius friend.”


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