A simply told, rather moving, series of sketches about the author's home town, in the center of Polish-Catholic coal country, where a respectable ambition was to die with all the fingers of one's hands intact. Plainly written descriptive chapters about the town characters (who like to drink, shoot pool, fight, then love each other -- apparently in that order) and institutions such as Bloody Bones (poor boy's football), Hooversville (so-called by the not-so-loving denizens of the town's dump) and Brolly's, best of the 119 bars that once graced the town's one-square mile area (""and numerous other establishments where one could have a ten-ounce glass of beer for a dime"") are interspersed with letters from the author's parents, placing this elegiacal memoir somewhere between autobiography and novel. Everything builds up to the collapse of the Blue Mountain Coal Breaker, the symbolic yet inevitable ending to the story of a tough, unsentimental people who live and die by coal, yet retain amid the poverty and sickness an incredible joie de vivre that is certainly not merited by circumstances: ""Dear Son, Be sure to write about the time our ceiling caved in. That will be the funniest part of the book. Love, Mom & Pop.