STARRED REVIEW
January 2019

A Sky for Us Alone

By Kristin Russell
Review by

People hear about America’s opioid crisis on the news, but author Kristin Russell brings readers up close and personal to this problem in her debut novel, A Sky for Us Alone. Cultural richness and material poverty collide in Russell’s fictional Appalachian setting of Strickland County. This is much more than a simple cautionary tale of how opioids can devastate a community. Instead, Russell has created a living, breathing tapestry of Appalachian life that is filled with voices both ancient and youthful.

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People hear about America’s opioid crisis on the news, but author Kristin Russell brings readers up close and personal to this problem in her debut novel, A Sky for Us Alone. Cultural richness and material poverty collide in Russell’s fictional Appalachian setting of Strickland County. This is much more than a simple cautionary tale of how opioids can devastate a community. Instead, Russell has created a living, breathing tapestry of Appalachian life that is filled with voices both ancient and youthful.

When 18-year-old Harlowe Compton discovers his older brother Nate’s body on their front porch, he vows to figure out who shot him. Nate served as the rock of their family, and his brutal death has devastating consequences for the Comptons. While Harlowe grieves over the loss, he also watches his family disintegrate. Harlowe’s mother deals with her physical and mental pain by slipping back into opioid use, and his father, unable to cope with both his wife’s addiction and his son’s death, simply disappears.

However, Harlowe finds an unexpected bright spot in his life when a new girl named Tennessee Moore moves to town, and despite their overwhelming family issues, the two teens find true friendship, support and love.

The coal-mining industry and its Mafia-like bosses—the powerful and conniving Prater family—serve as the backdrop for the action and mystery in A Sky for Us Alone. All life in Strickland County is viewed through coal’s influence. Vivid contrasts abound between the mining rubble, draglines, polluted runoff and the pristine beauty of the southern Appalachian wilderness.

Readers can expect a satisfying and uplifting ending despite the overall grimness of Russell’s well-told teen drama.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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A Sky for Us Alone

A Sky for Us Alone

By Kristin Russell
Katherine Tegen
ISBN 9780062697028

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