Monday, May 9, 2016

The Bleeding Door - Todd Cook

Summary: In 1868, the body of a young man, one of southern Appalachia's most feared and despised feudists, is found inside a deserted millhouse. Though the death of this violent man is welcome news to those who live in that region of southern Appalachia, few could imagine that long-ago events at a frontier Methodist academy in central Kentucky – as well as a succession of circuit riding preachers, a troubled Shaker village, as well as a mountain community plagued for decades by witches, ghosts, “haynts,” and deadly clan warfare—all led up to the death of this reviled figure, Enoch Slone. (Summary and pic from

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: I don’t think I’m the only one who finds the people of the Appalachians really interesting. First off, they’re really isolated. Those steep mountains not only create a natural geographic barrier, but families and clans stick together there in order to survive and thrive. They live with generations of family, passing down their culture and cultural stories. It’s just fascinating. As with lots of books I read, especially if they’re really interesting, I do a little research during and after reading the book. The research I did for this book mentioned that the communities in Appalachia have been lost and found several times, one of the notable times they were found was before the Civil War, and then after the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination, they were forgotten again. This book takes place right in that timeframe, so it was especially pertinent when I read this. Also, I looked up lots of pictures. Google Images is awesome for this kind of thing. As with many places of isolated cultures (and not just isolated cultures, actually) the land plays a huge role in the culture. I mean, how could it not? It affects what people eat, what sort of shelters they have, what industry the local community has, and in this case, how isolated they are geographically. It’s beautiful in the Appalachians, ya’ll. I would love to hike the Appalachian Trail someday. But I digress…

There’s no use beating around the bush, this book is a fictional and re-named account of the longstanding feud of the Hatfields and McCoys. Wasn’t there even a reality show about them recently? Apparently feuds are not easily forgotten. Cook has obviously done his research. You can see from his author’s biography and tell from his deft use of conversation that he is very familiar with the Appalachian people and the Hatfields and McCoys. I don’t think that this is based on actual stories or history within the Hatfield/McCoy feuds, but certainly some of the history of the land and cameos of historical figures was real.

As far as this story goes, it was interesting. And sad. There was a period of time in the book where people were just killing people from the opposing family for revenge, and then the other family would kill those people’s family for revenge for the revenge, lather, rinse, repeat. It’s rough. No one was safe—children, women, old people, etc. It was tragic. Although I was fairly aware of what was going on for most of the time, I was very confused at the beginning. The story skips from place to place and in some instances goes back in time, so it is confusing. This isn’t super well marked in the reading, so sometimes you’re just reading along and then in the next paragraph you’ve skipped a generation. Since the back story was covered mostly at the beginning of the book it got less confusing as the story went on. I think this is basically due to inexperience on the author’s part. Once the feud is resolved the book ends quickly, although it is a peaceful ending and wraps everything up nicely.

My Rating: 3 stars

For the sensitive reader: There is violence in this book. Some of this violence happens to children, women, and older people who are defenseless. There is some language as well. I would say this book would be rated PG-13.

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