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A Blue Moon in Poorwater

Cathryn Hankla

BUY Paper · 278 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813918464 · $20.00 · Dec 1998

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.


A Blue Moon in Poorwater is a wonderful, captivating, involving novel. Ms. Hankla never seems even tempted to give in to the urge to render her miners and her mountain folk as 'quaint' or 'folksy.' They are fully drawn, complicated people with dimensions, and the central speaker, Dorie, has an unrelenting eye for the truth of the experience.

Richard Bausch, author of Good Evening Mr. and Mrs.America, and All the Ships at Sea

It is Hankla's gift to take material that could be mean and ugly and mine it for beauty, to depict not alienation, but the cruel and tender binding of family and community members one to another. Her feet are planted firmly in the mountains of Appalachia.... Hankla's novel is a book to haunt long after it is finished.

About the Author(s): 

Cathryn Hankla is an associate professor of English at Hollins College. Her most recent books are two collections of poetry, Negative History and Afterimages.

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