Cathryn Hankla's first novel is an engaging coming-of-age story set in the small Appalachian mining town of Poorwater, Virginia. It is the summer of 1968, and the narrator, inquisitive ten-year-old Dorie Parks, is getting ready to enter fifth grade when her errant older brother Willie returns to town. A religious fanatic and suspected drug user, Willie represents to the residents of Poorwater the hippie counterculture that threatens their conservative town, and his return is the catalyst for a string of strange and sometimes tragic events. Dorie's father, a miner, begins a dangerous labor rights crusade after a mining accident leaves a close friend dead. Dorie struggles to understand the class differences that separate "holler kids" and trailer park children like herself from her wealthy friend Betty. Hankla's graceful writing evokes the wonder and growing sophistication of a young girl on the verge of adolescence and an unknown future. A Blue Moon in Poorwater offers a moving yet unsentimental slice of life in Appalachian, Virginia.

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