Book Review: The Coal Tattoo by Silas House

The love that Silas House has for Kentucky and Tennessee and its people is evident in the care he takes in crafting beautifully written novels about people that can be easily written off as dumb hillbillies by the outside world.

“Sisters don’t make up, El. They just go back to the way things were.”

The Coal Tattoo focused on two sisters in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky beginning at a time when coal was king and the music that made Nashville famous was coming out of the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

“I don’t believe I could live if you didn’t believe, though, Easter. I couldn’t make it without knowing you were always praying for me, always watching over me.”

Creating life-like, authentic characters is a challenge. House ups the ante by focusing on two generations of females with strong family bonds. The relationship between sisters is hard to explain and capture. House does an outstanding job of creating authentic, relatable and believable female relationships

“She could walk around like a whisper and no one would ever know the difference. People walked around dead all the time, going through the motions of life without really being there at all.”

The themes in this novel are love of family, love of the land, the connection to home, depression, corporate greed, conservation and religion. All are presented in a natural flow that fleshes out his fully realized characters and the world around them. House uses his love and knowledge of music to create time markers and create moods throughout the novel.

“- that their land was the most important thing they had besides one another. That loving the land was a given, not something one could choose, the same way you love your sister or brother even when you don’t want to.”

Note: I read books blind as I like discovering the story for myself. This is why I don’t give a synopsis. I don’t want to know all about what I am about to read and I extend that consideration and curtesy to you. If you want to have a book discussion, please leave a comment. I love to talk books. And yoga. And horses.

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