19 February 2012

Review: The Evening Hour by A. Carter Sickels

The Evening Hour by A. Carter Sickels

Published: 17 January 2012 by Bloomsbury USA

Pages: 336 (paperback)

Genre/s: Contemporary fiction

Source: publisher via NetGalley*

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository


Most of the wealth in Dove Creek, West Virginia, is in the earth-in the coal seams that have provided generations with a way of life. Born and raised here, twenty-seven-year-old Cole Freeman has sidestepped work as a miner to become an aide in a nursing home. He's got a shock of bleached blond hair and a gentle touch well suited to the job. He's also a drug dealer, reselling the prescription drugs his older patients give him to a younger crowd looking for different kinds of escape.

In this economically depressed, shifting landscape, Cole is floundering. The mining corporation is angling to buy the Freeman family's property, and Cole's protests only feel like stalling. Although he has often dreamed of leaving, he has a sense of duty to this land, especially after the death of his grandfather. His grandfather is not the only loss: Cole's one close friend, Terry Rose, has also slipped away from him, first to marriage, then to drugs. While Cole alternately attempts romance with two troubled women, he spends most of his time with the elderly patients at the home, desperately trying to ignore the decay of everything and everyone around him. Only when a disaster befalls these mountains is Cole forced to confront his fears and, finally, take decisive action-if not to save his world, to at least save himself.

My Thoughts

I won’t re-summarise the story of The Evening Hour as the synopsis says it all. This is an often bleak, sometimes depressing story with some shocking insights into the dramatics and politics of a small town, ravaged by poverty, drugs and the mining industry.

I found it easy to sympathise, in some ways, with Cole and the way he cared for the elderly and isolated residents of the nursing home where he works and the areas surrounding the town, despite the fact that he was buying their prescription medication and selling it on to local drug addicts at a higher price than he paid.

The writing is beautifully bleak and the story holds little hope for the majority of characters, some of whom have tried to escape the town only to find themselves drawn back into the lives they were so desperate to escape and the emotion of the story and the characters, struggling to keep or find their places in the world, leak through onto every page.

What was missing for me was a little more information on the mining company and the actual disaster itself – it felt like it was skimmed over a little with not enough detail or follow up on the characters whose lives had been devastated, and what happened to them afterwards.

I can’t say this was an enjoyable read, because it’s not that kind of book. But it is an emotional, dramatic, haunting and incredibly well-written debut.

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