The Green Age of Asher Witherow [NOOK Book]

Overview

Supplying a quarter of San Francisco?s coal, Nortonville of the 1860s-70s is a flourishing empire in small, seeming to promise unending prosperity and a better future. But beneath the vibrant work ethic of its Welch citizens lies an insidious network of superstitions.

A missing boy first brings these dark undercurrents to light. Then young Asher Witherow falls under the spell of an unorthodox apprentice minister, stirring a whirlpool of ...
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The Green Age of Asher Witherow

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Overview

Supplying a quarter of San Francisco’s coal, Nortonville of the 1860s-70s is a flourishing empire in small, seeming to promise unending prosperity and a better future. But beneath the vibrant work ethic of its Welch citizens lies an insidious network of superstitions.

A missing boy first brings these dark undercurrents to light. Then young Asher Witherow falls under the spell of an unorthodox apprentice minister, stirring a whirlpool of suspicion and outrage. Soon Asher finds himself trapped in a nightmarish crucible, all the more excruciating because he himself could end it if he could only find the strength of will. This is a lesson the missing boy has taught him, and what he understands instinctively from the alluring Anna Flood, new to Nortonville, who with her raw sensuality and independence seems to offer some hope of redemption or even escape.

In this powerful debut from a young writer of stunning talent, M. Allen Cunningham takes us into a time and place at once gritty and magical, when the future seems filled with promise but where the day’s labor is bone breaking, numbing and always dangerous.

Gorgeously written, historically authentic, The Green Age of Asher Witherow is a novel of tested loyalties, of condemnation and redemption. The characters’ deep emotional lives are complex and vivid, fluctuating from the doomed to the transcendent. As he unpacks his heart, Asher comes to realize that all his early traumas have somehow bonded him to the land surrounding Mount Diablo and infused his life with an inward wealth—a treasure at which we can only wonder.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A miner's son is immersed in the dark spirituality of an insular, mostly Welsh Northern California mining town in the mid-19th century in this gritty coming-of-age debut. When Asher Witherow is eight, he witnesses the burning of his best friend, Thomas Motion, in a horrific accident as the boys explore the caverns of nearby Mt. Diablo. Witherow hides his knowledge of the accident even as a search is mounted, a situation that intrigues Josiah Lyte, the boy's bizarre schoolteacher and local preacher who eventually gets cast out by the populace for integrating Hindu elements from his upbringing in India into his work. Much of the novel deals with Lyte's mystical influence over his precocious pupil, but some years after the accident Witherow also enters into an ill-fated romance with his "evening friend," Alice Flood. Cunningham does a superb job of capturing the grim rhythm of life in the mines, balancing that material with fine childhood character studies. Occasionally, the author gets carried away and the spiritual material turns lurid, but the beauty of Cunningham's naturalistic prose and the strong characterization of young Asher Witherow make this a worthwhile debut from a noteworthy new author. Agent, Judy Heiblum. (Oct.) FYI: This is the launch title of a new independent line created by Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson, former heads of MacMurray & Beck and Putnam/BlueHen. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Life and death among Welsh immigrant coalminers in 19th-century California. In an awkward weave, first-novelist Cunningham, a two-time Pushcart nominee for his short fiction, incorporates an early coming-of-age story with the scapegoating of an unorthodox seminarian. Narrator Asher Witherow is born in 1863 of Welsh parents in Nortonville, California, a mining town. The influence of the old country is strong: Welsh legends abound, coexisting with fervent religious beliefs. Asher's father, David, is resigned to life as a miner ("we endure"), while his mother, Abicca, is the militant one. At seven, Asher begins 12-hour days at the pit head, with school at night; by age nine, he's underground, soon working alongside his father. Death is never far away. Asher's playmate Thomas accidentally burns to death in an abandoned mine. Even though he saw it happen, Asher denies all knowledge and is crippled by guilt. Josiah Lyte, seminarian and Asher's teacher, is to be unfairly implicated by the narrow-minded townspeople. Josiah knows that Asher is a prodigy, and the two have quickly bonded. Josiah, the best character here, is the son of missionaries in India, and he embraces Hindu deities and Buddha as well as Christ. His pantheism resonates strongly with the young Asher, who is as advanced physically as he is spiritually-and before he's 12, he has impregnated his little girlfriend Anna ("Our bodies had stepped over without us"). Fire burns again, this time as metaphor for the sexual union. Too frail to sustain a pregnancy, Anna consents to an abortion, but then she too dies in a fire. Next, Asher's mother dies, and Josiah (present at Anna's abortion) is run out of town. Such events are all shoehornedinto the final third of a poorly paced novel that strives mightily to find the right language for the elemental Lawrentian urges at work, though too often the result is bombast. Disjointed material and unmatured style make for some rough sledding.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936071395
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,414,479
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

M. Allen Cunningham is also the author of the novel Lost Son. His short fiction has also appeared in a number of literary magazines, including Glimmer Train, Boulevard, and Epoch. He grew up in California, living for nearly two decades in the Diablo Valley north of San Francisco, and now resides with his wife in Portland, Oregon.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    compelling look at late nineteenth century Welsh-Americans

    In the 1870s, preadolescent Asher Witherow, being of Welsh descent, works alongside his father in the mines of Nortonville, California. Death, the norm of working underground, is a blink away as Asher sees first hand when he watches his best friend Thomas burns to death in an accident in an abandoned mine. Feeling guilty over the death of his pal, when Asher is questioned he denies knowing anything, which in turn adds to his remorse. Though lacking the slightest evidence, the townsfolk blame seminarian Josiah Lyte for the fiery death of Thomas probably because he is different with his Hindu and Buddha beliefs that enlighten his faith in Christ. The prejudiced locals do not trust anyone remotely dissimilar, but do nothing except somewhat ostracize the preacher. A few years later, Asher¿s twelve year old pregnant girlfriend and his mother die in separate incidents. Everyone blames Josiah except Asher, who knows the truth like he knows what happened four years ago. Though at times author M. Allen Cunningham uses lyrical language that seem out of place for graphic scenes, historical readers will appreciate this first person account by Asher looking back at the pivotal early events that shaped and hindered his life. Asher is an interesting person struggling years later as an adult with the guilt he feels over the deaths of three people he cared about whom all died when he was a pre-teen. THE GREEN AGE OF ASHER WITHEROW furbishes a compelling look at first and second generation late nineteenth century Welsh-Americans working the mines that as the protagonist¿s stoic dad accepts as all there is in life. Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2004

    A literary novel in the finest sense

    The early buzz on this debut novel serves up terms like: 'poetic intensity'; 'strikingly beautiful prose style'; 'unerring instinct for storytelling'; 'a startling accomplishment'; and 'lushly talented'. I will state emphatically that Mr. Cunningham's first novel is all that and much more. This is a literary novel in the finest sense of the word, magnetic and seductive from first word to last. Asher Witherow's story is told in first person. Young Asher is the only child of Welsh immigrants. His mother, Abicca, is strong, matriarchal. Father David works in the Black Diamond Mines circa the 1860s. Life is harsh and sometimes cruel for folks living in the dreary confines of the Contra Costa County California mining country. Miners work long hours below ground and their children join them at a very young age. Young Asher is no exception. He's a bright boy, curious and irrepressible. Death is witnessed at every turn, and stoically accepted as a necessary part of life in hard times. Asher's outlook is influenced by a young ministerial apprentice, Josiah Lyte, who wishes for the boy a better life. Friends Thomas Motion and Anna Flood bring life-changing influences to Asher's world. Present throughout is a strong sense of time and place, beautifully expressed. The elderly Asher recounts his life in retrospect. His own words state best what life has been. '...I know the great black hole won't receive me till I've tied my guts into sailor's knots over regrets and dreams and other torments I'm helpless to alter.' It's impossible to adequately review such excellence. I've given you the bare essence of The Green Age of Asher Witherow. Readers who appreciate fine literary fiction or the classics simply must read this book. Those who enjoy American history and well written tales will find it exemplary. This is a book to be savored, written by a gifted wordsmith. It has my highest recommendation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2004

    Loved this book!

    I picked up an advance-reader's paperback copy from my local bookstore on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. The book has a lot of depth and I found myself sucked right into the story. It was one of those books that leaves you feeling very satisfied. Does anyone know of anything else by this author?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2014

    Sedgepaw

    Thanks. Gathering time!)sedgepaw ran into a rabbit, shocked. She dashed after it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Falconsoar

    He shrugged. "I am young, and don't know what to do the rest of my life. I can't have a mate yet...it is against the rules I agreed to when I was a rouge. Don't let love get to you before your 25th moon." He explained.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    NorthernChill

    "Oh. Then I guess this is goodbye."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2014

    Sparklestar

    (Okay. I'll move it tomorrow then)

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