Saturday 5 November 2022

Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver

Demon Copperhead is a once-in-a-generation novel that breaks and mends your heart in the way only the best fiction can.

Demon's story begins with his traumatic birth to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, looking 'like a little blue prizefighter.' For the life ahead of him he would need all of that fighting spirit, along with buckets of charm, a quick wit, and some unexpected talents, legal and otherwise.

In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn't an idea, it's as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn't an abstraction, it's neighbours, parents, and friends. 'Family' could mean love, or reluctant foster care. For Demon, born on the wrong side of luck, the affection and safety he craves is as remote as the ocean he dreams of seeing one day. The wonder is in how far he's willing to travel to try and get there.

Suffused with truth, anger and compassion, Demon Copperhead is an epic tale of love, loss and everything in between.

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, what a stunning book.  It's a weighty book at 560 pages long but it fully immerses the reader in the deep south of America where poverty is rife and people struggle day to day to simply survive.  The survivors are the lucky ones.

I thought it would take a while to get into the book with it being so chunky but I was hooked from the very first page.  The writing is raw and visceral which gives Demon his unique and memorable voice from the moment he is born.  I could have read much more than 560 pages of this sublime writing that's for sure and I already have my eye on Barbara Kingsolver's back catalogue.

Although I own a vintage copy, I have never read David Copperfield and I will definitely read Demon Copperhead again after reading David Copperfield to fully appreciate Barbara Kingsolver's brilliance in this modern day retelling.  Dickens gets a mention too which is a really nice touch.

I am struggling to put my feelings into words about this book as it totally consumed me and I don't think Demon will ever leave me.  It's heart-wrenching at times, especially the things that Demon has to go through at such a young age, and it's sobering to think that Demon's story is mirrored by countless youngsters in real life.

Harrowing, gritty and completely extraordinary, Demon Copperhead is a stunning novel that unreservedly deserves a place on my shelf of favourite novels.  Very highly recommended.

I chose to read a gifted copy for the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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