Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake

Strange as This Weather Has Been

Set in present day West Virginia, Ann Pancake’s debut novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been, tells the story of a coal mining family— a couple and their four children— living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to slag and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blas...

Details Strange as This Weather Has Been

TitleStrange as This Weather Has Been
Release DateSep 28th, 2007
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, American, Southern, Environment

Reviews Strange as This Weather Has Been

  • Drew Lackovic
    Ann Pancake's first novel is one that is equally rich in the tactile detail of West Virginia's hollows as it is in its language. Pancake's style is dense, wet, and earthy, somehow evoking a sense of place and landscape through word choice, rhythm, and diction as well as classical imagery. The novel, teetering on a knife-edge between political activism and literary fiction does an excellent job of conveying its message against mountain top removal...
  • Laura
    I read this book to try to capture MY own feelings and emotions of memories in the West Virginia Mountains. And I think Ann Pancake and I have traveled some of the same winding mountain roads. From Beckley to the New River Gorge familiarity abounded. But no where so much as in the characters we follow from a typically dysfunctional family, especially Lace and Bant who seemed every bit a piece of not only myself but so many of the people I’ve kn...
  • Josh
    Sing along with me: "Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River." This book is about those "Country Roads" of West Virginia (or any other part of "Coal Country" in the Southern Appalachian Mountain Chain I would think) and where they take you......just not in the way John Denver intended when you're humming along. Certainly the beauty of the places in that tune are on display in this book, as you follow salt of the ear...
  • Rachel
    I feel I should begin this review by saying that I am a native of West Virginia, of southern West Virginia, to be exact. Living in southern West Virginia basically means being a resident of the coalfields, and this book is about exactly that. Lace is a character I could feel a strong connection to, a powerful voice that resonated with me and made me want to know her life's story. Pancake captures perfectly this image of how life in the region can...
  • Jim Minick
    Dark but good.
  • Eileen
    First of all, if the word "fated" is used to describe a character on the back cover of a book, you the reader will instantly know that character is going to die. The only other option is that they'll be told they're secretly the heir to the throne of the fabled kingdom of Horktonia, or something similar, but that doesn't happen in realistic novels. So the option is death. Great job, blurb-writers. That said, I did predict who was going to die may...
  • Grace Tenkay
    Powerful Appalachian fiction. Really illuminates the lives of a fictional hill country family as they deal with economic hard times, and the destruction of the environment from coal mining.She uses an interesting narrative style where the chapters feature different members of the family as narrators.
  • Andrew Sydlik
    This is one of the best novels I've ever read. Very developed and interesting characters, a setting that comes alive in sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feels, and a sense of tension that permeates the novel. While not plot-oriented, the action is important, and while I didn't necessarily find myself needing to know what happened next, I wanted to find out what was going on with the characters next.The characters are the strongest part of this ...
  • Heather Knight
    Ann Pancake's story of a young girl in West Virginia coal country who gets pregnant, drops out of college and ends up in a life that, from the outside, might look like a failure. I say from the outside because the girl, Lace, has such a relationship with nature — stronger, it seems, than with her husband or children or any person — that her return to "her land" and her fight to stay there in the face of strip mining and the death of one of he...
  • Jenny
    This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The writing is absolutely amazing. Pancake's descriptions are so vivid and poetic that I found myself marking things on almost every page, sometimes every paragraph. The book also gives a face to the environmental tragedy going on in Appalachia today caused by mountaintop removal coal mining. The characters ring true and their plight is all too real.Many people in Appalachia who live near mo...
  • Becki Iverson
    This book has been on my to-read list for years. I don't remember how it came to me but I am so glad it did. I've never read something centered in West Virginia and that particularly centers the stories of miners, and I learned a lot from this book. Not having grown up in that world it is so easy to point fingers and wonder: why the coal addiction? Can't the people living there see how damaging it is? That they're paying the price? The short answ...
  • Ashleigh Meyer
    I cannot wait to read this book again. Ann Pancake manages to paint a beautiful picture of the stunning, unstoppable, tragic landscape that is Appalachia (more specifically the coal regions of West Virginia) without relying on stereotypes and conventions. She spins the tale of one complex, headstrong family living through the degradation and destruction of the home that they simultaneously love and hate. It is so much more than a coming-of-age ta...
  • Jessie
    A successful protest novel for me (Pancake got me looking up resistance groups working against mountain-top removal); a lot of yearning in this book; I could feel it consistently; felt the homesickness running through it; had to play Townes Van Zandt on repeat after finishing. As a West Virginian, I was grateful for the painful accounts Pancake includes (re-imagined from interviews) about the Buffalo Creek mining disaster, in the 70s, I think. I ...
  • Jennifer
    Between this novel and Ron Rash's Serena, I've learned a lot--a heartbreaking lot--about Appalachia. In Pancake's novel, the link between environmental and soul devastations becomes clear. It's a novel about generations living in a hollow in West Virginia, and the loss of land and in some ways, the connection to their land. It's told through multiple narrators, and while the technique is important in terms of thinking about who stays and who goes...
  • Maol Mhuire O'Duinnin
    Man, I don't know about this how many stars out of five system...I know the author and i don't feel comfortable rating this book.Suffice it to say, it blew me out of the water! It is a really intense book, emotionally and otherwise, and a great story to boot. It is crystal clear that Ann knows her characters extremely well, which lends them credibility and unique voices. I truly appreciate this book and find myself wanting to refer to it for exam...
  • Tinea
    There are things it takes to really understand something that is big and hard. For me it is political analysis, experience, and novels. I've read the background on mountain top removal mining and coal in general, and I'm learning some West Virginia history. I've spent a month now in the thick of it, doing the political work, getting heavy in the lungs in time with the power plant schedules, listening to people tell about their sludge-contaminated...
  • loulou
    Ann Pancake tells the story of life in southern West Virginia using her own experiences, the experiences of the people she interviewed, and real events and locations. They all come together to make the novel feel genuine and personal.Coal has always been a huge part of the characters' lives, and it's been good and bad. Mostly bad. Very bad. The floods, the poverty, devastation, unemployment, and illnesses are all facts of life. Coal is not just a...
  • James Aura
    This is an absorbing and important novel because it tells the story of an Appalachian family in deep-to-the-bone human terms rather than as caricatures. The reader eventually realizes the other characters in the story are the mountains, which are slowly being destroyed by mining companies. And as the mountains are destroyed, so are water supplies, animal habitat and a way of life for the people unfortunate enough to live there. The author gave a ...
  • Virginia Baker
    Ann Pancake's debut novel is incredibly honest and true. It is an in-depth look into the life of Appalachia, the awful, gut wrenching coal mining practices that go on there and the poor population that has to live with a constant threat of environmental disaster due to these practices. Though this is a fictional story with fictional characters, it reads like truth. And it is the truth. This is the story of so many Americans who's voices are squas...
  • Debra
    A quietly passionate novel dealing with coal field depredations of southern West Virginia, especially mountain top removal. For those whom the mountains are part of their blood, their destruction kills not only the hills but also people's souls. Yet, without coal, there is no way of making a living. The pain of the dichotomy is a constant theme.The book is good, and I'd give it a qualified recommendation. My major frustration is following the cha...
  • Jennifer
    By reading this novel, I just spent the last week deep in a West Virginia mining community. The writing really brought me to a different place --- though this was not breezy escapism by any means. The story centers on a family that is struggling against the loss of their land,their livelihood, and their identity to mountaintop removal mining. It is truly tragic.My only critique is that I wish there was a bit more emphasis on plot. This was a long...
  • Edward
    Admittedly, I read very few novels, but Strange As This Weather Has Been is remarkable on all levels: the language is lush and inventive as it characterizes the place and people, the plot is woven artfully and rhythmically so that the ending is both painful and inevitable, the themes are approached from every angle without feeling forced or contrived, and these characters! It feels like they go on living these fully-drawn lives. I finished it an...
  • Sandi
    This was a hard book to read! First, the sadness of what families in the coal-mining mountains of West Virginia have to endure, is just plain depressing. Secondly, reading the back-woods dialect was hard to understand. Half the time I was reading, I was thinking to myself...what the heck is this about? The beauty of reading, is forming the picture in your mind, a vision of what the author is describing. I couldn't grasp that in this book. Witness...
  • Christina
    Beautiful and tragic book set in Southern WV, written by a native. I grew up in a WV hollow, and this is the first book I've ever read that really captures what our hills mean to us and how different life there is, for good and for bad. Particularly after the recent Montcoal disaster, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the history of coal mining and the mountaintop removal controversy.
  • Ann
    This book is fantastic... the first I've read in a long while that is hard to put down. She does a beautiful job capturing what the hills and hollows of WVa come to mean to those who live there and what it means to have that landscape destroyed by mountain top removal. The ending was less than perfect - though I'm not sure what other ending could have worked. Everyone should read this book...
  • Jess
    This book is important if you have ever lived in Appalachia, known anyone that has, or want to know about "clean coal". Pancake brings this book to the public forum with characters, stories, and culture that all beautifully reflect that part of America.
  • Liz Shine
    Both real and artful. Both particular and universal. This book sat on my shelf for four years. Had I known, I wold have read it immediately after taking it home. Thank goodness books have such a long shelf life.
  • Melissa
    Incredibly beautiful and incredibly important to me personally. I have long suspected that I would love this novel and, as it happens, I was right!