Annadel, West Virginia, was a small town rich in coal, farms, and close-knit families, all destroyed when the coal company came in. It stole everything it hadn’t bothered to buy — land deeds, private homes, and ultimately, the souls of its men and women. Four people tell this powerful, deeply moving tale: Activist Mayor C.J. Marcum. Fierce, loveless union man Rondal Lloyd. Gutsy nurse Carrie Bishop, who loved Rondal. And lonely, Sicilian immigrant Rose Angelelli, who lost four sons to the deadly mines. They all bear witness to nearly forgotten events of history, culminating in the final, tragic Battle of Blair Mountain — when the United States Army greeted 10,000 unemployed pro-union miners with airplanes, bombs, and poison gas. It was the first crucial battle of a war that has yet to be won. "Brilliant, diamond-hard fiction, heartwrenching, tough and tender." — Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Brilliant diamond-hard fiction, heartwrenching, tough and tender." –Los Angeles Times Book Review
"THIS IS THE GRIPPING STORY OF A REAL CONFLICT. . . . Denise Giardina tells the miners’ stirring story with a fierceness and passion. This is a fine, moving book." –ANNIE DILLARD
"If we are very lucky, every few years there arrives a novel that is so moving, so instantly successful . . . that it towers high over much else that is being published. Storming Heaven is that novel." –The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"An excellent book, full of fine observations and vivid characters . . . Giardina is a gifted writer." –Chicago Tribune
I was selling these books for quite a while before I looked at them as novels I might like to read. It was another sales rep who kept after me to read ‘just one’. He had told me that I would love them, and learn a lot as well. One time, when I was on the road, and suddenly, without a book to read, I actually bought one copy from a surprised bookseller, who wasn’t in the habit of selling a publishers’ rep a book from their own company. Anyway, I checked into my hotel, starting to read STORMING HEAVEN, and finished it all in one night. The other rep was quite right–I had never even known that there were Mine Wars in this country, let alone ones so violent that our own army would be called out to subdue the coal miners amid the hills of West Virginia. It was fascinating and heartbreaking, all at the same time. The author also takes great pains in describing the real connection these coal miners (and their families) feel to the actual earth beneath their feet. The connection is made all the more searing when some of the coalminers blood seeps into this earth in the violence of the strike. It was also the first time I had read a book about the union that crossed all ethnic and religious lines–the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the Christians and others all united mightily together for their fight .It is incredibly powerful.
I followed up with UNQUIET EARTH pretty quickly, although it did not hit me as powerfully as STORMING. This books picks up in the 30’s and takes us through the doomed union efforts of fifty years before ending in the 80’s with a defeated union and a truly depleted earth.
When there is news of strikes in the air, like the UPS strike or more recently , the GM strike, my mind always, always goes back to the experience of reading STORMING HEAVEN.