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
- If you don't have an indie bookstore near you, you can get it from Amazon.com.
- Podcast: Hear Ann read on the acclaimed program A River & Sound Review (Episode 13)
Reviews and Awards
- Finalist, Washington State Book Award
- Finalist, Orion Magazine 2008 Book Awards
- Weatherford Award--Best work of fiction/poetry about Appalachia published in 2007, Appalachian Studies Assn.
- Appalachian Heritage--"[The characters'] individual desires and struggles are gutsy, funny, heartbreaking, and entertainingly peculiar."
- Chicago Tribune "... filled with wisdom and fire and grace..."
- The Appalachian Voice "...graced with original thinking, deep insight, long emotional range..."
- Orion Magazine "... Pancake’s novel is shockingly pure, like holding gold in your hands..."
- The Stranger ". . . the structure of a classical tragedy, a choice that is no choice: sacrifice the thing you love most, or be destroyed."
- Louisville Courier-Journal "...a story about vision -- what we choose to see and not to see."
- CreativeLoafing.com: Second review down
- Booklist Editors' Choice 2007
- Kirkus Review Top Ten Fiction of 2007
- Booklist's Top 10 First Novels of 2007
- Interview: Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, WV
- New York Times Sunday Book Review "... powerful, sure-footed and haunting..."Editor's Choice
- O Magazine, October 2007
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer (scroll to NW Authors) "...emergence of a major literary talent."
- Publisher's Weekly (scroll way, way down) "...one doubts neither the characters' voices nor their places in a very complex poverty."
- Booklist via Amazon.com--Starred Review ("...evinces a poetic pathos and authentic respect for the land and the people who love it."
“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