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The Coal Tattoo: A Novel Paperback – August 30, 2005


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The Coal Tattoo: A Novel + Clay's Quilt (Ballantine Reader's Circle) + A Parchment of Leaves (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345480058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345480057
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Evocative prose and unforgettable characters mark this haunting novel from House, a Kentucky writer who mines the storytelling tradition of Appalachia. Set in the 1960s, the novel functions as a prequel of sorts to House's award-winning book Clay's Quilt, offering two sisters who are as different as night and day. Anneth—who will become Clay's mother—is a wild-blooded manic depressive determined to suck joy from life, while her older sister Easter, a deeply religious Pentecostal woman with the gift of foresight, has "decided to walk through life like a whisper." House paints both characters lovingly and unsentimentally, charting how each remains devoted to the other through tragedy and a battle to hold on to the one constant that unites them in a turbulent world: their land. As they fight to protect their mountain from the mining company that wants to clear the earth and strip it bare, the sisters make sacrifices for one another that will grip the reader. House has a gift for understanding the cadences of mountain folk religion and the way that music sustains people's spirits. The titular image of the coal tattoo—a bluish tinge that seeps under a miner's skin and leaves a permanent stain—is a perfect metaphor for the novel's depiction of the indelible imprint the land leaves on the human soul.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The talented House continues his long love letter to Kentucky in this starkly beautiful, overtly literary third novel, following Clay's Quilt (2000) and A Parchment of Leaves (2002). Restless 16-year-old Anneth is running wild, drawn to nightclubs, liquor, and music, while her steadfast sister, Easter, is a devout Pentecostal. Despite their differences, the two sisters have an unbreakable bond, forged in the aftermath of their father's death in a coal-mining accident and their mother's suicide. Anneth elopes with a musician to the big city of Nashville, where she becomes so homesick for the water and greenery of her Appalachian hometown of Free Creek, Kentucky, she comes racing back. Easter faces the pain of a miscarriage, which severely tests her faith. Whether describing the sight of dozens of redbirds or the taste of moonshine, House does so in prose that is both lovely and cadenced. Rural Kentucky is so vividly rendered, it's no surprise native son House has been showered with regional awards. In addition, his work on National Public Radio should garner extra attention for this title. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Silas House is the author of four novels: Clay's Quilt (2001), A Parchment of Leaves (2003), The Coal Tattoo (2004), Eli the Good (2009), a play, The Hurting Part (2005), and Something's Rising (2009), a creative nonfiction book about social protest co-authored with Jason Howard. A new play, Long Time Traveling premiered in April 2009.

House serves as Writer-in-Residence at Lincoln Memorial University, where he also directs the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. He is a contributing editor for No Depression magazine, where he has done long features on such artists as Lucinda Williams, Nickel Creek, Buddy Miller, Kelly Willis, Darrell Scott, Delbert McClinton, and many others. He is also one of Nashville's most in-demand press kit writers, having written the press kit bios for such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Kathy Mattea, Leann Womack, and many others.

House is a two-time finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Prize, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Novel of the Year, the Appalachian Book of the Year, Appalachian Writer of the Year (2009), the Chaffin Prize for Literature, the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and many other honors. Recently House was personally selected by the subject to write the foreword for the biography of Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons. In 2005 he also wrote the introduction for the new HarperCollins edition of Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses.

House's work can be found in Newsday, Oxford American, Bayou, The Southeast Review, The Louisville Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Wind, Night Train, and others, as well as in the anthologies New Stories From the South 2004: The Year's Best, Christmas in the South, A Kentucky Reader, Of Woods and Water, A Kentucky Christmas, Shouts and Whispers, High Horse, The Alumni Grill, Stories From the Blue Moon Café I and II, and many others.

For his environmental activism House received the Helen Lewis Community Lewis Award in 2008 from the Appalachian Studies Association.

House is currently working on his fifth novel, Evona Darling.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Coal Tattoo is a family story, a sister story, a land story, and a Kentucky story.
Tracy Kershaw-Staley
Rich characters, intertwining love stories, and a great writer makes this one of my favorite recent reads.
Momma 2 Three
It also helps to set up the theme of this book, that of the life of the coal miner and his family.
Bookreporter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on October 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
THE COAL TATTOO by Silas House

October 15,2004

THE COAL TATTOO by Silas House was my second book by this author, and third in his "trilogy" of books that take place in the mountains of Kentucky. The novel features characters that appear in his previous two books, A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES and his first, CLAY'S QUILT. All three are wonderful books that center on life in the Kentucky mountains, families that built their lives around the coalmines in the early to mid-twentieth century.

In THE COAL TATTOO, the two main characters are sisters Anneth and Easter, who are as different as night and day. Anneth is wild and unleashed, while Easter is a born-again Christian. Their story is a tale of two sisters who love each other, but find that their differences tear them apart.

What I love about these books is the depth that Silas House goes to describe his characters. One feels that these characters are part of one's own family, or maybe a reader may want to meet these characters, because House creates characters that are truly real and three-dimensional. I felt at home with his characters from A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES, and I feel the same with THE COAL TATTOO. He also does a good job at describing the lives of these people, and it feels like I am with them, in the bar dancing up a storm, or in church singing with the choir.

These three books are what I call period pieces, and reflect a time long gone. History and technology has changed what this fictional place may have been like half a century ago, but they remain unchanged in these books by Silas House. I highly recommend reading all his books. These are not easy reads, but one will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after experiencing these books. THE COAL TATTOO is no exception, and the Ratmammy rates it five stars.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Kershaw-Staley on September 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Coal Tattoo, Silas House fills in the story of the families he gave us in Parchment of Leaves and Clay's Quilt.

House's descriptions of nature are poetic. He nails the speech patterns of Eastern Kentuckians without being cruel or condescending. He describes authentic faith in God respectfully; he does not stoop to easy generalizations or caricatures. As a native of Eastern Kentucky, realistic portrayals of its people and land are important to me, and House does not disappoint.

Although set firmly in Eastern Kentucky, the stories are universal. Coal Tattoo is a family story, a sister story, a land story, and a Kentucky story. If you're new to his work, I would suggest starting with Parchment, then Coal Tattoo and then Clay's Quilt.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By jeanne-scott on December 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Silas House is one of the greatest and most gifted authors of our time!! If I could give this book MORE THAN 5 STARS, I would!! His magic with words and the thoughts and dialogue of the people who live in his stories is absolutely amazing.

This is a beautiful tale of the deep love of two sisters who have endured much together as they enter their adult lives, making decisions and choices that may forver alter their relationship with each other. Their lives have been defined by the coal mining that is the lifeblood of their mountain home, a part of their past and their present but how will it change their future?

As troubled times strike the sisters, Silas House brings us into their hearts and minds, giving depth and soul to each of them. He makes you care deeply about what is happening to them in their lives.

Two sisters, so very different and yet so closely bonded......when they are rocked to their core by life's events, can they save each other from despair and bring hope back or will they have to learn to lead separate lives.

This tale would be the second story in a trilogy, coming after Parchment of Leaves and before Clay's Quilt. Silas House is such an exquisite and powerful author that each novel can easily stand on it's own merits.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Being from Kentucky, most of my role models have roots in my home state. Silas House is the ultimate role model. "The Coal Tattoo", is another remarkable book from my favorite author. Like his other works, "The Coal Tattoo" contains lively characters. It is so real that you are snapped back in time within a spilt second. You began to be a bystander in, "The Coal Tattoo." For the scenes are so real that you are walking the walk of the characters. A stunning book by a seasoned author. Want to take a day trip back in time? Buy this book. Sit down; buckle up; and read on.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sindy Egleston on October 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is Silas House's best book yet. The language is so beautiful if often reads like poetry yet House always manages to keep the plot going just enough that it feels like a literary pageturner. I was completely obsessed with these characters while reading the book and struggled constantly with wanting to get to the end to see how everything turned out but--at the same time--not wanting the book to end. Anneth and Easter are two of the most vivid and memorable characters I have ever encountered in literature. If this book doesn't win some major national awards then I will be highly disappointed. It's time everyone knows who House is. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amber D. Howell on June 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I ran across this book by chance and, being from KY, thought I would give it a shot. Turns out, I finished it in only a few days, which is unusal for me. This book is as powerful a book as I have read in a long time. I laugh, I cried, I felt life (and death) there in Black Banks. The characters on not out of the ordinary for the area, but this book puts a power in the love that exist for this beautiful land and the strong spiritual hold it has on the people who live (or have lived) there. It was my first Silas House book, but definetly not my last.
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