The Coal Tattoo

The Coal Tattoo

4.3 8
by Silas House
     
 

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Two sisters can't stand to live together, but can't bear to be apart. One worships the flashy world of Nashville, the other is a devout Pentecostal. One falls into the lap of any man, the other is afraid to even date. One gets pregnant in a flash, the other desperately wants to have child.

This is what's at the heart of Silas House's third, masterful novel,… See more details below

Overview

Two sisters can't stand to live together, but can't bear to be apart. One worships the flashy world of Nashville, the other is a devout Pentecostal. One falls into the lap of any man, the other is afraid to even date. One gets pregnant in a flash, the other desperately wants to have child.

This is what's at the heart of Silas House's third, masterful novel, which tells the story of Easter and Anneth, tragically left parentles as children, who must raise themselves and each other in their small coal-mining town. Easter is deeply religious, keeps a good home, believes in tradition, and is intent on rearing her wild younger sister properly. Anneth is untamable, full of passion, determined to live hard and fast. It's only a matter of time before their predilections split their paths and nearly undo their bond. How these two women learn to overcome their past, sacrifice deeply for each other, and live together again in the only place that matters is the story of The Coal Tattoo.

Silas House's work has been described as compelling, seamless, breathtaking, heartbreaking, eloquent, stunningly beautiful, and exquisite. In The Coal Tattoo, he raises the bar once again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Evocative prose and unforgettable characters mark this haunting novel from House, a Kentucky writer who mines the storytelling tradition of Appalachia. Set in the 1960s, the novel functions as a prequel of sorts to House's award-winning book Clay's Quilt, offering two sisters who are as different as night and day. Anneth who will become Clay's mother is a wild-blooded manic depressive determined to suck joy from life, while her older sister Easter, a deeply religious Pentecostal woman with the gift of foresight, has "decided to walk through life like a whisper." House paints both characters lovingly and unsentimentally, charting how each remains devoted to the other through tragedy and a battle to hold on to the one constant that unites them in a turbulent world: their land. As they fight to protect their mountain from the mining company that wants to clear the earth and strip it bare, the sisters make sacrifices for one another that will grip the reader. House has a gift for understanding the cadences of mountain folk religion and the way that music sustains people's spirits. The titular image of the coal tattoo a bluish tinge that seeps under a miner's skin and leaves a permanent stain is a perfect metaphor for the novel's depiction of the indelible imprint the land leaves on the human soul. (Sept. 24) Forecast: House is already a regional favorite, and strong handselling around the country could build his audience nationwide. His books are an excellent choice for readers of religious fiction, but they have a more general spiritual and literary appeal, too. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Third in a multigenerational saga (A Parchment of Leaves, 2002, etc.) of a Kentucky mountain family with tragedy to burn. Easter and her younger sister Anneth are orphaned when their father dies in a cave-in at the Altamont Mine and their mother hangs herself shortly thereafter. The two and their brother Gabe are raised by their grandmothers: Serena, whose family settled in the shadow of the mountain at Free Creek; and Vine, a Cherokee whose land was on the other side of the mountain in an area that's now a mine. Easter is a churchgoing Pentecostal who finds love with El, but grief when her only child is stillborn and she can't have another. (The child has a blue birthmark similar to a "coal tattoo" that marks men who have survived cave-ins.) Anneth is a beauty whose wild streak draws her into drinking, barroom flirtations, and impulsive marriages to a Nashville-bound singer/guitarist, a wealthy mine foreman, and ultimately a dangerously controlling man. The relationship between the sisters is frayed by Anneth's recklessness, but ultimately family ties endure when the Altamont mining company turns to strip mining, using coerced "broad form deeds," and tries to bulldoze their mountain (" . . . loving the land was a given, not something one could choose. . ."). When the sisters and their aunt stand in front of the bulldozers, the media plays up the incident, and the land is saved for now. Anneth falls in love with a draftee headed to Vietnam, discovers she's pregnant, and promises to give the baby to Easter and El to raise. Both sisters are natural singers, and a motif about the coming of rock 'n' roll in the 1960s adds an intriguing period dimension. Sometimes marred by a monotony in itscharacterizations, but, overall, a gentle tale with appealingly flawed people and an exquisite sense of the quotidian.
From the Publisher
“A portrait of two sisters that is both realistic and deeply moving . . . House stakes a strong claim on the territory of Southern fiction, unearthing new gems from a well-loved landscape.”
–The Charlotte Observer

“[This] lovely novel . . . about the love and survival skills of two very different sisters . . . is powered by a strong sense of place.”
–USA Today

“[House is] a writer of startling abilities . . . a master at rendering his characters’ emotional terrain as real and accessible.”
–The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Full of heartbreaking beauty and suffering . . . House brings vividly to life the Appalachian Mountains. . . . His love of the land comes through his words, and his admiration of the people colors every character.”
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Some characters wear coal tattoos, patches of coal buried in the skin. . . . The author brands the readers with a similarly indelible mark as we become enmeshed in the lives of these people; it’s a badge to be worn proudly.”
–Southern Living

“A deeply emotional story . . . How do we cope with tragedy and heartbreak? The Coal Tattoo describes the struggles that all of us must endure to be human.”
–Dayton Daily News

“Engrossing . . . [A] pitch-perfect tale.”
–Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565128590
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
09/24/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
246,288
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"The characters of the two sisters and their mates are engagingly complex, and the psychological insights into maturation, family, and talent have an impressive depth and originality."
—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Four Spirits and Ahab's Wife

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