The John Gardner Fiction Book Award, 2015
Appalachian Book of the Year (Fiction), 2014
Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award
"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 11-year-old 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 Centralia and Carbondale, where devastating coal mine fires irrevocably changed the lives of residents, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. Lovers of literary fiction will find in Harnett's young, determined protagonist a character as heartbreakingly captivating as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
“Harnett’s deeply atmospheric historical novel of the harsh old mining life captures the despair of a family at the mercy of the earth’s elements and their own worst impulses.” (
“Brigid is no ordinary hard-luck heroine; her voice rings true, offering a matter-of-fact telling that never falls into self-pity or melodrama. Set against the 1960s Pennsylvania coal mine fires, this debut novel is a dark and rewarding read.” ( Library Journal)
"Narrator Luci Christian's youthful charisma provides a natural portrayal of preteen Brigid Howley, who is struggling with family secrets in a poverty-stricken coal town in the 1960s. Christian's clear, delicate voice belies the girl's impoverished upbringing and poor education--but does depict Brigid's naïve hopefulness amid her family's wretched circumstances." ( AudioFile)
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