Bright’s Passage by Josh Ritter
Henry Bright has newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Griefstruck by the death of his young wife and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he’s ever known. His hopes for safety rest with the angel who has followed him to Appalachia from the trenches of France and who now promises to protect him and his son. Haunted by the abiding nightmare of his experiences in the war and shadowed by his dead wife’s father, the Colonel, and his two brutal sons, Bright—along with his newborn—makes his way through a ravaged landscape toward an uncertain salvation.
The Hawk’s Nest Incident: America’s Worst Industrial Disaster by Martin Cherniack
In the early 1930s, the Union Carbide company dug a water tunnel along a river in West Virginia to generate power for a chemical plant. After extensive research, including interviews with survivors and relatives, Cherniack concludes that over 700 workers died from acute silicosis, a disease little known at the time. From his account we learn more about what happened to the mostly black, mostly migrant laborers, digging a three-mile silicon-laden tunnel, than contemporary accounts were able to provide.
Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina
Annadel, West Virginia, was a small town rich in coal, farms, and close-knit families, all destroyed when the coal company came in. It stole everything it hadn’t bothered to buy — land deeds, private homes, and ultimately, the souls of its men and women. Four people tell this powerful, deeply moving tale: Activist Mayor C.J. Marcum. Fierce, loveless union man Rondal Lloyd. Gutsy nurse Carrie Bishop, who loved Rondal. And lonely, Sicilian immigrant Rose Angelelli, who lost four sons to the deadly mines. They all bear witness to nearly forgotten events of history, culminating in the final, tragic Battle of Blair Mountain — when the United States Army greeted 10,000 unemployed pro-union miners with airplanes, bombs, and poison gas. It was the first crucial battle of a war that has yet to be won.
All Fall Down by Carlene Thompson
Few locals believe Sinclair’s wealthy golden boy Martin Avery actually took his own life-or that his beautiful young widow had nothing to do with his death. Well aware of the rumors behind her back, Blaine Avery is focused on managing her late husband’s finances and raising her adolescent stepdaughter…until her serene woodland property yields a gruesome discovery. For the second time in six months, Sheriff Logan Quint has been called out to the Avery place, where another corpse has been found. This time, it belongs to a teenage girl who had everything to live for. But if Rosie Van Zandt didn’t kill herself…who did? As the once sleepy town reels from the rash of so-called suicides, Blaine regrets the day she ever came home. Only Logan is willing to accept her innocence-or her suspicions. For Blaine is desperate to clear her name, and dead certain somebody intends to destroy it. Somebody who calls her in the dead of night, taunting her with the childhood rhyme: Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posey, ashes, ashes, we…All Fall Down.
America’s most notorious family feud began in 1865 with the murder of a Harmon McCoy, a Union soldier, by a Confederate Hatfield. But Southern grudges run long and deep. More than a decade later tempers flared over stolen hogs. This accusation triggered years of bloody violence and retribution that led to a tragic Romeo-and-Juliet interlude, a Supreme Court ruling, and a public hanging. The final feud trial took place in 1898, but the rivalry didn’t end there. Its legend continues to have an enormous impact on the popular imagination and the people of the region. Here is a fascinating new look at the infamous story of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Ghosts of the Southern Mountains and Appalachia by Nancy Roberts