Title: The Hollow Ground
Author: Natalie S. Harnett
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source: ARC received from publicist for an honest review
Summary from Goodreads:
"We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."
The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet. Inspired by real-life events in now-infamous Centralia and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place.
As you all know, I'm not really accepting ARCs for review other than for TLC Book Tours (and even that got scaled way back). However, when I was approached with an offer to read The Hollow Ground, I jumped on it. Mostly, it was the setting that did it for me--I have been rather fascinated by the history of the coal fires in Centralia, PA (a literal ghost town--Google that shizzle), and my mom's family is from northeastern Pennsylvania, not far from Carbondale. My grandfather was a coal miner. So I thought for sure this would be a match made in heaven for me. But alas, it was not to be.
This is going to be a short review because, yes...I DNF'd this book. (Did Not Finish, for the layperson.) And I hardly ever do that (in fact, it's only the third time ever). But I worked my way through 46% of this novel, and I just could not connect with it, no matter how hard I tried. And I tried...OH MY GOD did I tryyyyy (a little early-90's rock for you right there...anyone? You can thank me later).
I think there were two issues for me here. First was the main character, Brigid. She was so static. I felt like a lot of things were happening TO her, but she was rarely ever making things happen. She was very passive, and thus came off as a weak protagonist. I didn't build any emotion for or against her, which is rarely a good sign.
The second issue was that there wasn't much plot movement. I made it to nearly the 50% mark, and didn't feel like I had reached any level of anticipation for these "decades' old secrets" that were mentioned in the book's summary. Perhaps that anticipation would have come later, but by the halfway point, I found myself unwilling to wait for it any longer.
Hopefully others will have a better experience with this one (there are quite a lot of excellent reviews on Goodreads!), but The Hollow Ground was a miss for me.
Readers, have you had to DNF any novels lately?