cover image The Unquiet Earth

The Unquiet Earth

Denise Giardina. W. W. Norton & Company, $22.95 (367pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03096-9

Giardina's powerful sequel to the highly praised Storming Heaven again focuses on Blackberry Creek, a West Virginia coal-mining town targeted for union-busting by coal companies and the federal government. In a timeframe reaching from 1930 to the present, Giardina dramatizes the community's--and individual characters'--short-lived victories, overwhelming frustrations and ultimate devastation. Rebels kept in check with threats of violence, impoverished children whose pride is damaged by outsiders' self-satisfied displays of charity, and men who have survived mine-shaft collapses only to succumb to black lung disease populate these pages; all must watch as their cherished sites are destroyed by machines that strip the land. Central to the novel is the secret, star-crossed love affair of cousins Dillon Freedman, a fierce union activist, and Rachel Honaker, a practical woman who holds an establishment job as a nurse. Their emotional bond is strained by conflicting politics, while their tragic situation is magnified by Rachel's daughter Jackie, who is unaware that Dillon may be her father and ashamed of her ``hillbilly'' roots. Narrated in four primary and three lesser voices, this compelling saga starkly portrays the mining families' symbiotic, spiritual relationship with nature and their helplessness in dealing with the ruthless men who control their lives. (May)