Friday, February 17, 2023

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver


He was born Damon Fields but not under a lucky star.  His father was killed in an accident before he was born.  His mother fell to pieces and was a junkie.  He was born into a poor county with his household being one of the poorest.  But kids seldom know they are poor and less than; they just know if they are happy.  Demon was happy and spent his hours playing next door with his best buddy, who he nicknamed Maggot.  Maggot lives with his grandparents and Demon starts to think they are his grandparents as well.

As he gets older, things deteriorate.  His mother, who got sober so she could keep Demon, marries a man who is determined to make sure Demon follows all of his rules.  He terrorizes Demon and his mother with physical and mental abuse until Demon is taken away and put into state care.  He bounces from foster home to foster home, always hungry, always in ill-fitting clothes, often smelly from the physical labor he is doing with few opportunities to bathe.

His last foster assignment turns things around.  He is put under the care of the local football coach who is a town hero.  He sees the potential for athletic stardom in Demon and soon Demon is the talk of the town, making touchdowns look like child's play.  When his knee is shattered in a game, even this is taken away.  He is put on painkillers and before he knows it, is addicted.  It seems that life is over early for Demon but is it?

I read all of Barbara Kingsolver's novels and this is definitely one of her best.  She knows the land and the people she writes about as it is her home and I grew up very close to this area as well.  I know guys like Demon, stuck in poverty and addiction but still with a honest, sweet core to them.  He is a 'good ole boy' and in our part of the world, men like him will always help you if you have a flat tire, a yard that needs mowing or a fence that needs repair.  But they are often troubled underneath and prime victims for alcoholism and drug addiction to block out the fact that our area of the world is looked down upon, that we're seen as less than, rednecks and hillbillies.  The reader will be attracted to Demon and wonder if he will be able to pull out of the pitfalls that his locale and life has given him.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

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