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- Category: Book Buzz
To the Bones by Valerie Nieman
“This is the West Virginia novel done right: slam-bang storytelling in tightly controlled language, by turns horrific and funny and beautiful.”
—Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories
"Evocative, intelligent prose conjures an anxious mood and strong sense of place while spotlighting the societal and environmental devastation wrought by the coal mining industry."
"A storytelling feat: a pulse-pounding thriller that also manages to construct a whole terrifying, gorgeous mythology. To the Bones surprises and captivates at every turn."
— Clare Beams, author of We Show What We Have Learned
Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful—and dangerous—than the one thrown in. An orphan with an unknown past, he must now figure out how to have a future.
Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to Dreama, her missing daughter. Could this stranger’s tale of a pit of bones be connected? With help from disgraced deputy Marco DeLucca and Zadie Person, a local journalist investigating an acid mine spill, Darrick and Lourana push against everyone who tries to block the truth. Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides.
In a town where the river flows orange and the founding—and controlling—family is rumored to “strip a man to the bones,” the conspiracy that bleeds Redbird runs as deep as the coal veins that feed it.
Valerie Nieman’s fourth novel, To the Bones, a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia, joins her award-winning Blood Clay, Survivors, and Neena Gathering. Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, includes work that first appeared in The Missouri Review, Chautauqua, The Southern Poetry Review, and other journals. “Steeped in sideshow tradition, and addressing issues of race, gender, self-concept, and creative expression, your book is beautifully written,” wrote Lisa Schaefer, curator, The Coney Island Museum. Her poetry has appeared widely, from Poetry to The Georgia Review to The Galway Review, and has been published in numerous anthologies, including Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. She has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.