To the Bones by Valerie Nieman
West Virginia University Press (April 2019)
204 pages; $19.99 paperback; $11.49 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
At the core of every person, there is a twisted black seam which offsets the good that we might do. Some call it original sin. Others recognize it as karma. It is a swirling darkness of the soul from which no light escapes.
In West Virginia, it’s called coal.
The exploitation of lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous, and anthracite coal is as addictive as heroin to those who have no conscience about the subjugation of their fellow man and the natural world. This is true, at least in Redbird, a struggling community on a backroad in Appalachia, where the Kavanagh clan has built a mining empire atop death, black lung disease, cave-ins, suffocation, and the occasional gas explosion.