A VEIN OF RICHES by John Knowles


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Lyle Catherwood, another young identity-crisised hero from the John Knowles stable (A Separate Peace), wealthily comes of age in West Virginia coal mining country during post-WW I labor battles. The indolent mine-owning life at Catherwood Castle is threatened as UMW organizers, company goons, hired sheriffs, and federal troops fight it out. Wishy-washy Lyle plays with adventure and flirts with the ideas of both sides while his beautiful, silly mother Minnie (who wears only white and has never seen a coal mine) has a momentary spiritual crisis before being ""saved"" and becoming socially conscious, and big daddy Clarkson Catherwood dawdles off to Europe with his mistress, Lyle's true love. The workers/owners war is not a real issue in this bland chronicle, however, but a swatch of local color; in the end, all Lyle's decisions are made for him by his father's impending bankruptcy. (Clarkson and Minnie dreamily move to a little farm; we aren't told what happens to the miners.) Lyle sells his Pierce-Arrow, gets a job in a hardware store (where he enjoys waiting on people), marries the cast-off mistress, and evaluates himself with typical Catherwood complacency: ""God, I have a lot of deep feelings. . . . It's something running right through me, very deeply, a vein or seam, all these feelings and caring. . . it's what I've really got."" Unfortunately, all the deep feelings we keep hearing about are not enough to give point and substance to a drippy boy or a droopy novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1977
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown