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Demon Copperhead : a novel
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A New York Times "Ten Best Books of the Year" * An Oprah's Book Club Selection * An Instant New York Times Bestseller * An Instant Wall Street Journal Bestseller * A #1 Washington Post Bestseller

"Demon is a voice for the ages--akin to Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield--only even more resilient." --Beth Macy, author of Dopesick

"May be the best novel of [the year]. . . . Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, this is the story of an irrepressible boy nobody wants, but readers will love." (Ron Charles, Washington Post)

From the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees, a brilliant novel that enthralls, compels, and captures the heart as it evokes a young hero's unforgettable journey to maturity

Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens' anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can't imagine leaving behind.

Fiction/Biography Profile
Demon Copperhead (Male), Cartoonist, Quick-witted, Son of a single mother
Coming of age
Young men
Opioid abuse
Foster care
Rural poor
Appalachia - South (U.S.)
Virginia - South (U.S.)
Trade Reviews
Library Journal Review
A boy born to a single, teenage mother grows up tough in Appalachia, demonstrating a remarkable capacity for surviving foster care, child labor, and terrible schools while balancing athletic triumph with heartbreak and addiction. What matters most: his rural roots ultimately render him invisible to society. A contemporaneous David Copperfield; with a 250,000-copy first printing.
Publishers Weekly Review
Kingsolver (Unsheltered) offers a deeply evocative story of a boy born to an impoverished single mother. In this self-styled, modern adaptation of Dickens's David Copperfield, Demon Copperhead, 11, is the quick-witted son and budding cartoonist of a troubled young mother and a stepfather in southern Appalachia's Lee County, Va.; eventually, his mother's opioid addiction places Demon in various foster homes, where he is forced to earn his keep through work (even though his guardians are paid) and is always hungry from lack of food. After a guardian steals his money, Demon hitchhikes to Tennessee in search of his paternal grandmother. She is welcoming, but will not raise him, and sends him back to live with the town's celebrated high school football coach as his new guardian, a widower who lives in a castle-like home with his boyish daughter, Angus. Demon's teen years settle briefly with fame on the football field and a girlfriend, Dori. But stability is short-lived after a football injury and as he and Dori become addicted to opioids ("We were storybook orphans on drugs"). Kingsolver's account of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the social fabric of Appalachia is drawn to heartbreaking effect. This is a powerful story, both brilliant in its many social messages regarding foster care, child hunger, and rural struggles, and breathless in its delivery. (Oct.)
Booklist Review
ldquo;A kid is a terrible thing to be, in charge of nothing." So says young Damon Fields, who's destined to be known as Demon Copperhead, a hungry orphan in a snake-harboring holler in Lee County, Virginia, where meth and opioids kill and nearly everyone is just scraping by. With his red hair and the "light-green eyes of a Melungeon," Damon's a dead-ringer for his dead father, whom he never met. More parent to his mother than she was to him, he's subjected to hellish foster situations after her death, forced into hard labor, including a stint in a tobacco field, which ignites one of many righteous indictments of greed and exploitation. Damon funnels his dreams into drawings of superheroes, art being one of his secret powers. After risking his life to find his irascible grandmother, he ends up living in unnerving luxury with Coach Winfield and his smart, caustic, motherless daughter. Kingsolver's capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny survivor's tale is a virtuoso present-day variation on Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, and she revels in creating wicked and sensitive character variations, dramatic trials-by-fire, and resounding social critiques, all told from Damon's frank and piercing point of view in vibrantly inventive language. Every detail stings or sings as he reflects on nature, Appalachia, family, responsibility, love, and endemic social injustice. Kingsolver's tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance.
Kirkus Review
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America's hard-pressed rural South. It's not necessary to have read Dickens' famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver's absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator's mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon's cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield's earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver's major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon's fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver's ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens' Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon's seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn't air-brush his students' dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it. An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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