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Storming Heaven: A Novel Paperback – August 17, 1987


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (August 17, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393024407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393024401
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,311,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four strong, entirely different voices evoke the passion and the pain of unionizing the coal mines of Kentucky and West Virginia in the early 20th century. The canvas is broad, the action complex but even minor characters quicken to life in this memorable, beautifully written novel. The inhabitants of the hills of Appalachia see their beloved land stolen by the coal companies; forced to work in the mines, they are cheated out of their pay. Families starve, die of malaria and dysentery and slowly, almost against their will, begin the fearsome job of fighting back. In 1921, an army of 10,000 workers marches on a single town. The coal companies, the police and finally the federal government close in; hundreds are killed and the man who masterminded the attack is shot. As fast paced and compulsively readable as a thriller, this novel never overlooks the gentler pleasure of living on the land, falling in love, raising a family. Stunning sensory images sear scenes on the mind's eye. Giardina (Good King Harry has written one of those rare books that portrays a small world with impeccable clarity while telling an exciting story in vigorous, elegant prose.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA This well-written novel is an earnest recreation of the turbulent events in the West Virginia coal fields during the early decades of this century. The ties of the people to land and family are the book's soul, and their violent confrontations with those who took their land and tried to take their dignity are its body. Because it is well into the story before the lives of most of the characters intersect and because the book builds to a climax of bloody repression of a strike, this may not have universal appeal to young adults. But those who reach at least as far as the black union organizer's fiery death in a company furnace are likely to finish and appreciate this tale of injustice met by bravery. Mike Parsons, Houston Public Library
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The themes are still relevant and being played out today.
The Phoenix
The only reason I didn't give the book five stars is because the characters jumped around a little too much for my liking, but as the book progressed I got used to it.
Frances Martin
She took the subject and interwove it with rich characters.
Dwight Hopper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
And I've read a LOT of books. This is one of the few books I'veread that will have me laughing until my sides ache in one chapter,crying until I can't see the pages in another, and ready to go on aprotest march in the next.
Storming Heaven is an exhaustively researched, historically accurate, and utterly compelling story of the Battle of Blair Mountain, WV in 1921. It's the story of an armed conflict between coal miners and the hired gunhands who represented the coal operators. It's a story of how the United States government turned on its own people, looking away when women and children were murdered in cold blood, sending troops into the valleys and dropping bombs on the mountains.
And if the story itself isn't stirring enough, Giardina writes some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. The mountains are *alive* in her books.
My copy of Storming Heaven is so dog-eared and highlighted that I'll soon need to replace it. I am astounded that a couple of others have rated this book a 'hard read'. Compared to what? Danielle Steele?
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Christine Goldbeck on June 9, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hailing from the coal regions of Northeastern Pennsylvania, when I learned of this title, I quickly ordered a copy and read it within a day and a half. I could not put it down, and, in fact, kept returning to passages because Giardina's prose is brilliant. The characters are so alive that I was actually upset to end the book and lose Carrie Bishop as a friend. Being a writer, I am in awe of Giardina. In fact, off I go to read the other Giardina book I ordered, "The Unquiet Earth." Anyone from coal country, be it NE PA's anthracite field or coal country in other locations, will readily identify with this story for its historical worth. Reading it is like listening to tales as told by our great-grandparents who worked in the damp,dark underground and their families, who toiled above.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nancy on April 28, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book tells a story, based on actual events, that is little known to those outside of the Appalachian coalfield area. It is told through the eyes of four characters, and is both moving and chilling. The South was built on the backs of slaves, the railroad on the backs of Chinese and other immigrants, but many Americans are unaware that our industrial progress was fueled by the coal out of West Virginia and Kentucky, mined by "mountain folk" who were brutalized by our own government, as well as the coal operators who kept them in abject poverty. A tremendous book.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 4, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am grateful for writers like Denise Giardina, who has added immeasurably to my understanding of the coal-mine town, its company stores, and the many brutal attempts to discourage unionization. These are the people who put themselves on the line for the rest of us, we who in later generations have come to dismiss the incredible hardships involved in starting unions that would stand behind the common laborer who could not be heard. Whole families were engaged in this huge American struggle for decent hours and a living wage, and many were killed in the process. This book is full of the simple people who did their jobs well and didn't ask for much in return. They certainly didn't ask for the state militia to be mustered to shut them up. It is even more outrageous that the United States Government would rain bombs and poison gas upon its own citizens in West Virginia in one of the most shameful events in recent American history. My teachers never told me any of this in school, but they did say to remember that history always repeats itself.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was absolutely intrigued by a recent write-up in the New Orleans newpaper about Denise Giardina. She grew up Methodist, studied for the Episcopal priesthood and was invited to preach at a local Baptist church. Plus she is currently a "long-shot" candidate for West Virginia Governor running against coal interests. Unfortunately I missed her talk, but I did read "Storming Heaven" and found it to be one of those books that stays with you: ordinary characters who find themselves in tough circumstances. It was so good that I read it in two sittings.
It did remind me of Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible" in two ways: an ensemble cast with the story being told from multiple points-of-view over time, and as a story about institutions taken to excess (religion in PB and capitalism in SH). However, religion does play a role in "Storming Heaven", but it wasn't preachy. One of the characters was a "Hardshell" Baptist preacher, a likeable, positive character unlike the preacher in "Poisonwood."
Giardina's voice might be called liberal because she is clearly on the side of the union and workers with plenty of heartbreaking examples of abuse from the early coal companies. But abuse of the miners and their families also comes from the U.S. government, which interestingly brings to mind the recent events in Waco, Texas, where our government also besieged and attacked innocent citizens.
Overall, this is a wonderful, well-written book. Gardina is a great storyteller. Read it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The version of West Virginia history I learned in school as a child never matched the history I learned perched on my daddy's knee. Giardina tells the story of her not-so-distant ancestors, my ancestors, giving a voice to people the rest of America either maligned or ignored for so many decades. She captures the dialect, the manners, and the spirit of these people, telling their story in a way only someone who loves them fiercely could ever manage. Giardina is one of the people who have proven to me that Appalachia is worth writing about, after all.
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