Archive for the ‘addiction’ Tag

A Classic Tale With a Modern Twist   Leave a comment

Barbara Kingsolver acknowledges a connection with Charles Dickens, which explains the many similarities between her most recent novel, Demon Copperhead, and the classic David Copperfield. Admittedly, I’ve forgotten a lot about the latter, but recall enough to know they both deal with contemporary social issues of their times. For Dickens, child labor, squalid living conditions and long-standing poverty in 1800s London were among the problems he addressed.

Kingsolver sets her narrative in southern Appalachia where Demon, an exceptionally reliable narrator, tells his life’s story beginning with his birth in a single-wide trailer to an unwed mother prone to addiction. If not for the kindness of neighbors, the Peggots, who temporarily and intermittently become his surrogate family, Demon likely would have ended up in foster care long before he did.

The topics Kingsolver focuses on include physical abuse, disarray within the foster care system, child labor, the elevation of high school football over classroom education and widespread drug addiction. Demon is a victim of these and more. Despite often making poor decisions – without consistent role models there’s little reason to expect otherwise – he’s intelligent and self-aware. He’s also caring and resilient.

Demon is artistic and a keen observer of his situation and those around him. His hunger in one foster home is palpable, as is his fear when he runs away.  Besides the Peggots, a handful of other adults try to help Demon, but their rural community has access to ill-gotten pharmaceuticals with few resources to focus on their consequences.

Demon Copperhead

Four-and-a-half Bookmarks

Harper, 2022

548 pages, includes acknowledgements

Living With Tragedy   Leave a comment

I recently discovered the unexpected pleasure of Carol Anshaw’s Carry the One, which had been buried in my nightstand stack. (The unforeseen is or should be, after all, one of the joys of picking up a new book.)

Through richly developed characters, smooth transitions of the progression of time and several relatable subthemes, Anshaw has crafted a meaningful story about the impact of tragedy – even when there are degrees of separation from it.

Soon after Carmen’s wedding reception, five guests including her siblings Alice and Nick and their partners Maude and Olivia, who are all on drugs or drunk, are involved in an accident. On a dark, deserted road their car runs over a young girl.

Each passenger, as well as the wedding couple, deal with the accident in different ways. Olivia, who was driving is sent to prison where she undergoes a dramatic personality change. Alice immerses herself in her art by painting portraits of the deceased girl as she would have grown up. Carmen, who was not in the car, engages in community activism; and Nick, who is overwhelmed with guilt, tries to overcome his addictions in order to be the man Olivia insists he become.

Their success in their respective endeavors varies as time passes. This progression is smooth. It’s subtly indicated through someone’s birthday, a current event and the age of a beloved dog – among other observations.

Anshaw incorporates wry humor in this engaging, relevant narrative while portraying vivid emotional pain through familial and romantic love.

Carry the One

Four+ Bookmarks

Simon & Schuster, 2012

253 pages