The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

secretwisdomThe Secret Wisdom of the Earth
by Christopher Scotton
2015 / 480 pages
read by Robert Petcoff – 13h 32m
rating 7 / contemp fiction

A reading group buddy with very similar tastes in books enthusiastically recommended this book a few weeks ago and it went on my wishlist then.  I’m not so much although yes,  it is a a very good book.

Told in 1st person from the vantage point of many years later,  Kevin Gillooly and his mother go to spend the summer at the home of her father, Pops,  in Medgar, Kentucky.  They both need to recuperate from the sudden death of Kevin’s younger brother. Kevin was 14-years old during that summer.

After a few days of getting to know a few of the townsfolk, Kevin meets a local boy named Buzzy Fink who befriends him and introduces him to the hills and natural life of the area.   And Pops takes a firm hold of Kevin and does his best to steer the boy in positive directions.   Meanwhile through Buzzy Kevin gets to know the backgrounds of some of the locals,  the good guys and the bad – the ones who fight the mountaintop removal method of mining done by the local mining company and a few of those who are tied to the jobs including the ringleader,  Bubba Boyd an family.

Mountaintop removal in Kentucky -

Mountaintop removal in Kentucky –

There’s a lot of bad blood behind the decades old argument of whether to sell land to the mines or not.  And then one of the guys who is most against the mines  is murdered – but there’s more to his murder than the mines. .

The boys are stressed (for reasons I won’t go into) and take a camping trip with Pops, Kevin’s grandfather, a veterinarian and outdoorsman.   This is where the reader needs a little patience,  Scotton seems to love describing the wonders of nature and the  joys of back-country fishing.  But patience is rewarded  (and I won’t go into that either).

The boys are stressed (for reasons I won’t go into) and take a camping trip with Pops, Kevin’s grandfather, a veterinarian and outdoorsman.   This is where the reader needs a little patience,  Scotton seems to love describing the wonders of nature and the  joys of back-country fishing.  But patience is rewarded  (and I won’t go into that either).I suppose the main themes are friendship, family and loyalty,  heroism,  various kinds of damage by corporations the beauty of the earth.

Scotton has an excellent way of describing the setting of the Appalachian mountains and he does go on  but this is a debut novel – and an excellent debut novel.  I’m sure fishing in the Kentucky mountains is delightful.

The main characters are wonderfully well drawn, individual and sympathetic.

Pops is wonderfully grandfatherly,  knowledgeable , loving.  Kevin is naive but bright and courageous.  Buzzy is knowledgeable about folkish ways,  although unschooled,  he’s also bright and courageous.   The rather minor character of Paul Pierce is wonderfully endearing.  The bad guys, especially Bubba Boyd and his sons are rather typed – ignorant hillbillies and proud of  it.

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