Monday, February 11, 2013

The Coal Tattoo by Silas House~★★★

Author: Silas House
Title: The Coal Tattoo
Release Date: September 24, 2004
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "Two sisters can't stand to live together, but can't bear to be apart. One worships of the flashy world of Nashville, the other is a devout Pentecostal. One falls into the lap of any man, the other is afraid to even date. One gets pregnant in a flash, the other desperately wants to have a child.
This is what's at the heart of Silas House's third, masterful novel, which tells the story of Easter and Anneth, tragically left parentless as children, who must raise themselves and each other in their small coal-mining town. Easter is deeply religious, keeps a good home, believes in tradition, and is intent on rearing her wild younger sister properly. Anneth is untamable, full of passion, determined to live hard and fast. It's only a matter of time before their predictions split their paths and nearly undo their bond. How these two women learn to overcome their past, sacrifice deeply for each other, and live together again in the only place that matters is the story of The Coal Tattoo.
Silas House's work has been described as compelling, seamless, breathtaking, heartbreaking, eloquent, stunningly beautiful, and exquisite. In The Coal Tattoo, he raises the bar once more."

Taryn's Review: The book jacket spoiled the pregnancy storyline in the book for me. It wasn't until I was reading some other reviews that I realized this book was a prequel to House's book Clay's Quilt. I don't know if the person who wrote the blurb for the book jacket assumed people would have already read Clay's Quilt, but I hadn't and this affected my reading of the book. I'd also argue that the blurb embellished the sisters' qualities, because the one afraid to date marries rather quickly and the one who supposedly worships Nashville isn't there too long because she missed home so much. None of these irritations were the authors fault, but the publisher's fault and it impacted the story for me.

Silas House is a great writer, but this story wasn't captivating for me. The beginning of the book was but once the sisters split ways, it was harder for me to stay interested. The story of the wild sister versus the tame sister is a time-old story, so the contrasts between the two wasn't anything new. House added the discussion of the girls' grandmothers and mother, as well as the constant feature of the coal mines tearing up the land despite the residents' protests. While these layers to the story did add some dimension, they weren't strong enough to really enrich the storyline for me. Again, maybe if I'd read Clay's Quilt first I'd feel differently, but it is what it is.

If you are interested, I'm going to go ahead and say to read Clay's Quilt first even though I hadn't. Had I known this book was a sequel I would have, but it 's too late to go back now. I really like Silas House's writing style and I have a soft spot for books set in Kentucky (the author sets the story here and he also lives in Eastern Kentucky). I'll most likely give another one of his books a try since House is a strong writer, especially given the fact that he wrote the book from the perspective of women and it was believable. While this book wasn't a favorite, I do look forward to reading another book by the author.

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