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Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia
     

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia

4.0 2
by Dennis Covington
 

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For New York Times reporter Dennis Covington, what began as a journalistic assignment—covering the trial of an Alabama pastor convicted of attempting to murder his wife with poisonous snakes—would evolve into a headlong plunge into a bizarre, mysterious, and ultimately irresistible world of unshakable faith: the world of holiness snake handling.

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Overview

For New York Times reporter Dennis Covington, what began as a journalistic assignment—covering the trial of an Alabama pastor convicted of attempting to murder his wife with poisonous snakes—would evolve into a headlong plunge into a bizarre, mysterious, and ultimately irresistible world of unshakable faith: the world of holiness snake handling.

Set in the heart of Appalachia, Salvation on Sand Mountain is Covington's unsurpassed and chillingly captivating exploration of the nature, power, and extremity of faith—an exploration that gradually turns inward, until Covington finds himself taking up the snakes.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After Covington, a writing instructor at the University of Alabama, novelist (Lizard) and freelance journalist, covered the trial of a preacher convicted of attempting to murder his wife with rattlesnakes, he was invited to attend a snake-handling service in Scottsville, Ala. He found the service exhilarating and unsettling; he felt a kinship with the people, for he was only two generations removed from the hill country of Appalachia. Of Scottish-Irish descent, the handlers are religious mystics who believe in demons, drink strychnine and drape rattlesnakes around their bodies. Covington attended other services with Brother Carl Porter; he eventually handled a huge rattlesnake, and recalls that at the time, he felt absolutely no fear. This is a captivating glimpse of an exotic religious sect. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Fascinated by the religious practice of snake handling, the author, a novelist and writing instuctor at the University of Alabama, relates his association with the Church of Jesus with Signs Following in Scottsboro, Alabama. Working for the New York Times, Covington covered the trial of the church's preacher, who was convicted of attempting to murder his wife with rattlesnakes. Upon discovering this remnant of distinctive Southern culture, the author continues his journalist's involvement with the church, which develops into a personal spiritual journey. Awed by the faith and daring of the followers, he becomes a participant in their peculiar rituals. Although the author's observations and insights are interesting, this book is only marginally informative. For a more complete study, see Thomas Burton's Serpent-Handling Believers (LJ 3/15/93).-Eloise R. Hitchcock, Tennessee Technological Univ. Lib., Cookeville
Denise Perry Donavin
This fascinating work catches the essence of a place, southern Appalachia, its people, and the author's personal journey into his past. Covington is descended from the poor southern, Scotch-Irish people in this region. His ancestors came down from Stone Mountain to work the steel mills of Birmingham, Alabama. They were members of the still existent snake handlers, religious mystics who "cast out demons, drink strychnine, run blowtorches up their arms and drape themselves with rattlesnakes." Covington's journey began, more or less, when he covered the trial of Glenn Summerford, a southern preacher accused of attempting to murder his wife with rattlesnakes. In delving deeper and deeper into the pair's family and religious life, Covington became mesmerized. He attended several services at Summerford's former church--the Church of Jesus with Signs Following. "It's not true that you become used to the noise and confusion of a snake handling Holiness service. On the contrary, you become enmeshed in it. It is theater at its most intricate--improvisational, spiritual jazz." Watching his own daughter's gusto at one New Year's Eve service, the author started a genealogical search for his family's link to this evolving religion. His story is a sensitive look at the people and practices, even though he finally distances himself from their beliefs.
Booknews
Covington's coverage of a sensational trial leads him into an exploration of Appalachian Holiness religion and his own roots on Sand Mountain. When he discovers that his ancestors were snake handlers, Covington takes up serpents himself and comes to terms with his spiritual beliefs and the conflicts between traditional restrictive roles for women and modern attitudes. He profiles the faithful as they cast out demons and speak in tongues, and describes a social and geographic landscape where cultures collide. Contains b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
Option, 8/15/11
“Heartfelt yet sensational…Covington’s memoir is genuinely life-changing.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786745821
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
08/11/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
312,819
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Dennis Covington is the award-winning author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including Lizard and Lasso the Moon. He teaches creative writing at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

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Salvation On Sand Moutain: Snake Handling And Redemption In Southern Appalachia 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book lends phenomenal insight into the lives of an extraordinary group of people. Mr. Covington has done a remarkable job of detailing his experiences without using them to speculate the thoughts/feelings of others; this allows the reader become fully absorbed while remaining impartial. Well done!