Fourteen year old Kevin Gillooly and his mother retreat to her father’s Appalachian mountain home in eastern Kentucky following the horrific death of Kevin’s three year old brother. There, both mother and son heal under the wise and caring influence of “Pops”, while Kevin begins a friendship with local boy Buzzy Fink that will be tested as Kevin navigates the secrets and behaviors of a mountain people that are strange to him, deals with the hate crime murder of a beloved town resident, and watches his grandfather oppose the power hungry actions of a local man who wants to continue his coal-mining company’s process of blowing tops off of mountains to obtain scarcer and scarcer veins of coal.
By the time a mysterious figure appears trying to kill Kevin, Buzzy and Pops as they go on a two week “tramp” up and down the beloved mountain property of Pops, Kevin finds he will have to dig deep to apply what his grandfather has been patiently teaching him and what his family’s heritage will make of him.
“The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” is a classic coming of age story blended with a story of personal and familial redemption that initially intrigues the reader and then relentlessly pulls said reader along as the plotting and pace leave no other choice. The first half of the book I found myself reluctant to put down while the latter half was impossible to leave.
Christopher Scotton is a writer who writes with such compelling imagery (“…diligently weaving his anger into a smothering blanket…” is one of the early and favorite phrases that grabbed my attention) and ability to move the story at the pace it demands that you would never guess this is his first published work. His characters are, for the most part, full and complete, giving the reader the feeling that he knows who these people are and why they do what they do. No small feat and one that many writers find difficult or impossible to accomplish.
I highly recommend “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” and look forward to Mr. Scotton’s next work.