A BLUE MOON IN POORWATER by Cathryn Hankla

A BLUE MOON IN POORWATER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hankla, author of a book of poetry and a short-story collection, makes her debut as a novelist with this warm and occasionally magical evocation of life in an Appalachian coal-mining town, circa 1970. The point-of-view character here is the book's chief ornament--ten-year-old Dorie Parks, full of questions and strange ideas, fearless as Tom or Huck, dimly aware of the social and fiscal differences that separate her in her trailer from her best friend, Betty Grayson, who lives in a two-story house with ceramic tiles on the bathroom floor. Dorie's daddy is a coal-miner, her mother a devotee of The Edge of Night and a woman ""accustomed to the enigmatic ways of men with their vehicles,"" and her brother, Willie, a high-school dropout who shows up whenever he has a load of moonshine whiskey to unload or the Holy Roller tent moves into town (he's the preacher, Brother Saul's python-handler). Dorie's tenth year is a bad one--during it, her daddy loses an arm in a mining accident, and Willie gets shot. But as it comes to a close, she begins to be able to fill in some of life's blanks. After the moonwalk she says, ""I got out my question book and found the page where I had written a long-lost question: Is there life on the Moon? I scrawled on the blank answer line: Yes."" Hankla's metaphors are sometimes a bit self-conscious, and details of her story echo too clearly from To Kill a Mockingbird. But that aside, her book succeeds on the strength of its vivid characters and their buoyant sense of belonging.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1988
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin