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The Hollow Ground    by Natalie S. Harnett order for
Hollow Ground
by Natalie S. Harnett
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Full of atmospheric suspense, this book's opening sentence sets the tone: 'We walk on fire or air ...' In Pennsylvania coal country the underground fire is so close that Brigid's aunt disappears one night into a newly opened sinkhole as she goes for a walk. Inspectors come into everyone's house day and night to check on carbon monoxide levels. One time Brigid has to hoist her Gram onto her shoulders to get her out of the house when she is overcome by fumes.

Bad as Brigid's environment is, that is nothing compared to the situations of the people closest to her. The way Brigid explains it, the family has a curse. Gramp is a black-lung patient; Uncle Frank died and Daddy's arm was mashed (both in one mining accident); and Ma is on the outs with Gram. Brigid tries her best to keep the family together, but the curse won't allow her to, especially after she finds a skeleton in an abandoned mine shaft.

Brigid tells this tale, and for an eleven-year-old, she is pretty precocious. But through her, the power of place in an individual's life is pictured in stark and poignant detail. We cannot help but be moved by its invincibility in these people's lives, because they have such few choices.

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