Strange as this Weather Has Been

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Strange As This Weather Has Been features a West Virginian town in the midst of the latest coal boom, and plagued by the mountaintop removal strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to dust and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters. And down below, the hollow’s inhabitants live with the constant threat of a black flood that could wash out their world without notice.

This story of lives suspended by danger is delivered through the perspectives of several members of one family—a couple and their four children—with a particular focus on fifteen-year-old Bant and her mother, Lace. Working at a “scab” motel, Bant becomes involved with a young miner while her mother contemplates joining the fight against the mine owners. As domestic conflicts escalate, the children are pushed more and more outside among junk from the floods and felled trees—the only nature the youngest ones have ever known. But Bant has other memories and is as curious and strong-willed as her mother. Ultimately, through her eyes, we come to discover the very real threat of destruction that looms in the landscape and in her home. Based on interviews and real events, and magnificently drawn together by Ann Pancake, the stories of these people merge and finally explode into a harrowing, yet life-affirming, conclusion.

The novel is published by Shoemaker and Hoard/Counterpoint.

About the cover: "The Agony of Gaia" is a sculpture by Jeff-Chapman Crane, photographed by James Archambeault

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  • Podcast: Hear Ann read on the acclaimed program A River & Sound Review (Episode 13)

Reviews and Awards
“Ann Pancake is Appalachia’s Steinbeck . . . Strange As This Weather Has Been is a major achievement. Not since Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker has a writer so truly envisioned rural poverty, rural art, rural grace, but Pancake’s book is utterly contemporary . . . a thousand miles of streams filled with toxic blast while towering slurry builds to engender the next black flood, is ongoing tragedy. It is happening now, while Lace and Jimmy Make, their stalwart daughter Bant, and their sons, slow, contemplative Dane, fated, fiery Corey and the fierce youngest, Tommy, stand shoulder to shoulder with the strongest characters created in American fiction.” —Jayne Anne Phillips, author, Black Tickets, Machine Dreams, and Motherkind

“Ann Pancake has written a novel that crackles with this century’s great background white noise of loss, greed, dishonesty—but the honest complexity of both her characters and their sometimes-beloved, othertimes-estranged or forgotten landscape yields a hope which on the surface may seem unjustified, but ends up being as durable as the spark of life itself, and then some. I was greatly impressed.” —Rick Bass, author, Hermit's Story