I usually wait till year end to list my favorite books (as well as those I simply read). But this book stopped me in my tracks and compelled me to share with my readers now.
We all have our favorite Barbara Kingsolver book. She has written fiction and non-fiction alike. But her latest novel, Demon Copperhead, creates an iconic, engaging and spirited American analogue to Charles Dickens’ classic novel, David Copperfield. Kingsolver acknowledges this inspiration directly with her play on words title.
Like the poverty-ridden hero of Dickens 19th century Victorian London, Kingsolver creates an everyman–or every boy– who must navigate a terrible, poverty-stricken childhood.
Demon Copperhead is born to a single teen mother, lives in Appalachia, gets thrown into the foster system when his mother dies, experiences cruel child labor, hunger and later the punishing poison of oxy drug addiction as he navigates toward adulthood.
But our lead character is no depressing storyteller. Demon is a fierce, funny and always surprising navigator of his life’s terrain. The dialogue in this book pops and crackles with memorable country metaphors, course language and realistic boy babble.
Demon meets many people who help him along the way as well those who abuse him. Experiences first loves and lasting scars from peers and adults who live in his small town. He dreams of driving to see the ocean one day and has false starts more than once. He’s an artist with talents he ignores and others encourage.
Kingsolver loves all these country characters from their worst behaviors to their best. But most of all, she makes Demon a lovable loser, a lost boy and a hero of human proportions. You can’t put the book down. And, along the way, you also begin to understand the tough choices, cruel decisions and rough lives so many in Southern Appalachia carve out of their mountains.
Cheering Demon on becomes the reader’s role. Believing in his passage through the worst and most daunting situations, hoping for a happy ending. Demon may be part of the enduring “coming of age” genre but he’s an unforgettable one.
Like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn or J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable narrator with a thoroughly modern voice. Demon Copperhead is sure to become part of the American literary canon…if the literature know-nothings don’t ban it.
A NEW YORK TIMES “TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2022
An Oprah’s Book Club Selection An Instant New York Times Bestseller An Instant Wall Street Journal Bestseller A #1 Washington Post Bestseller
“Demon is a voice for the ages—akin to Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield—only even more resilient.” —Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
“May be the best novel of 2022. . . . Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, this is the story of an irrepressible boy nobody wants, but readers will love.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)
From the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees, a brilliant novel that enthralls, compels, and captures the heart as it evokes a young hero’s unforgettable journey to maturity
Kingsolver…a writer for the ages! I eagerly await the notification from my library that the book is Kindle available…will likely be months. Thank you Mimi for an excellent, motivating, interesting and well written review.
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Wow, I just planted myself to read Demon Copperhead. I started it yesterday and now I cannot wait to delve into it. Thanks for your great review! Terry
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Reading it yet? Just loved every word!