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The Evening Hour: A Novel Paperback – January 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In Sickels’ sparkling debut, the inhabitants of Dove Creek, West Virginia, often speak of leaving but for complicated reasons can’t or won’t. Twenty-seven-year-old Cole Freeman tried leaving once but guiltily returned to help care for his aging grandfather, formerly a fiery Baptist minister, now an asocial prude. Because Cole was raised by his grandparents, he must respect their stubborn desire to remain in Dove Creek despite the coal company’s offer to purchase their land, not to mention the recurrent earth-shattering explosions reminding them of the imminent dangers of coal-borne cancer. To support himself and his grandparents, Cole works as an aide in a nursing home, where he steals his patients’ money and prescription pills to sell to others. As he dreams of eventually leaving town for good, his friends seem to be drifting away emotionally, leaving him feeling more isolated than ever before. Sickels’ measured prose underscores the eeriness of a contradiction-riddled town plagued by boredom, sickness, and poverty in a powerful story of one man’s effort to help others when no one is able to help him. --Jonathan Fullmer


A plainspoken novel, but one with intensely lyrical moments, about the devastation of the West Virginia landscape--and the devastation to the local communities--owing to mountaintop removal... Sickels has great insight into the emotional life of West Virginians, and he refreshingly presents them as fully realized characters. (Kirkus Reviews)

Sickels's debut revolves around a cast of characters whose world is pulled out from under them... The novel is grounded in rich storytelling. (Publishers Weekly)

Cole's point of view is one not often encountered in contemporary fiction. First-time novelist Sickels paints [his] experience with an unflinching hand. (Library Journal)

In this stark, beautiful debut, Sickels writes with gentle grace and cutting honesty about characters as wounded as the condemned land on which they live. The Evening Hour is a raw, aching book that gleams with moments of unflinching truth and unexpected tenderness, casting light into dark corners, revealing both damage and dignity. It's a stunning novel. (Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals and Boys and Girls Like You and Me)

The troubled heart of the country, and the hearts of the deeply compelling people who populate it, beat strongly and unforgettably in The Evening Hour. Carter Sickels is a tremendous novelist with a tremendous story to tell in these pages, and he tells it with beauty and power. (Stacey D'Erasmo, author of The Sky Below)

The Evening Hour could be a hymn sung out in a country church; when I finished it, I wanted to close my eyes, listen to its echoes, feel the power of its song. For that is what this beautiful book is: a sweet-souled, hard-eyed prayer for a beleaguered people and the beloved landscape they call home. With striking authenticity and admirable restraint, Carter Sickels brings both forcefully to life in his deeply moving, spiritually uplifting debut. (Josh Weil, author of The New Valley)

The Evening Hour is engrossing. It elicits strong, complicated emotions from the first page. I felt inhabited by the characters, and as the page numbers increased, I was as scared for it to end as I was to see what would happen. (Nick Reding, author of Methland)

A refreshing cry from the populace, Carter Sickels's The Evening Hour captures the spirit of America's New Feudalism. The setting is West Virginia and Heritage Coal has a monopoly: on the land, on the lives of the people who work for them, and on the families who live downhill from the toxic sludge pond. Life is hell and survival is all there is. Some have the Bible, some have booze and pills and sex, and some still dare to have a dream. (Tom Spanbauer, author of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160819597X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608195978
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carter Sickels is the author of the novel The Evening Hour (Bloomsbury USA, 2012). He has been awarded scholarships to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the MacDowell Colony, and VCCA. Carter earned an MFA in Fiction from Penn State and a MA in Folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill. Carter lives in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
Cole Freeman grew up with the Bible and little else. Now almost thirty, he's the only one of his friends who feels no inclination to escape from the mountains of West Virginia -- not by moving or joining the military or using the drugs he sells to supplement his income as a nursing home aide. Cole feels a connection to the land despite the explosions that ravage it as mining companies destroy the mountain tops that surround him. He has no connection to his mother, condemned as a harlot by his grandfather before she walked out of Cole's life. How will Cole respond when a death in the family brings her back to the mountain?

The strength of The Evening Hour lies in the careful construction of its central character. Cole is a man of unvoiced thoughts, a man who rarely uses more than three words and a grunt to answer a question. He nonetheless has complex feelings: about growing up without a mother; about the serpent-handling, scripture-spouting grandfather who raised him; about his former best friend, Terry Rose, who left the mountain before returning to take a job at Wal-Mart; about the women with whom he has on-and-off relationships; about the government and the mining company and the environmentalists he can't bring himself to trust. He wants to be a nurse and likely has the aptitude and intelligence to attend college, but can't muster the belief in himself that he would need to change his life. His grandfather told him many times that he needed to be saved, that he should surrender himself to the Holy Ghost, but salvation eludes him. He understands the appeal of religion but doesn't have much use for it. He's frustrated and isolated, confused and tired. He's nearly thirty but he's still growing up ...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bob Lind on February 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
Twenty-seven year old Cole Freeman works as a nursing home aide, making extra money by selling pills he steals from the patients, Cole has managed to avoid going to work for the mining company that is quickly destroying the pristine beauty of the West Virginia mountains on which he lives. Raised by his grandmother and preacher-grandfather after his single mother left, Cole feels both a connection and a detachment from his family and boyhood friends. He knows there is a better life possible if he leaves the mountain, but is considering becoming a nurse to better help the locals he genuinely likes. When his mother returns for his grandfather's funeral, at the same time that the strip-mining makes living there increasingly dangerous, Cole is forced to make a decision for which he is clearly unprepared.

This is an impressive first novel from the transgender, gay-male-identified author, dealing with an important environmental issue. The story unfolds in the Cole's actions and thoughts, as well as in the words of a group of highly diverse straight and gay characters surrounding him, making for a suspenseful and interesting read. Four stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Chavez on May 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Evening Hour tells the story of Cole Freeman, a thief and drug dealer with a conscience. The author's strong voice places the reader among West Virginia's poor coal families living in the Appalachia Mountains. It's a story that you will remember long after the read, particularly when another coal mine disaster makes the evening news. The author crafted each of his characters with multi-dimensional facets that made them credible. The plot created enough tension to keep the reader invested throughout. And the unique theme—a Robin Hood type protagonist raised in a holy-roller church, who steals from the helpless to help the poor, as well as himself—turns out to be an extraordinary tale that I highly recommend.
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By Kat on January 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
I won't re-summarise the story of The Evening Hour as the synopsis says it all. This is an often bleak, sometimes depressing story with some shocking insights into the dramatics and politics of a small town, ravaged by poverty, drugs and the mining industry.

I found it easy to sympathise, in some ways, with Cole and the way he cared for the elderly and isolated residents of the nursing home where he works and the areas surrounding the town, despite the fact that he was buying their prescription medication and selling it on to local drug addicts at a higher price than he paid.

The writing is beautifully bleak and the story holds little hope for the majority of characters, some of whom have tried to escape the town only to find themselves drawn back into the lives they were so desperate to escape and the emotion of the story and the characters, struggling to keep or find their places in the world, leak through onto every page.

What was missing for me was a little more information on the mining company and the actual disaster itself - it felt like it was skimmed over a little with not enough detail or follow up on the characters whose lives had been devastated, and what happened to them afterwards.

I can't say this was an enjoyable read, because it's not that kind of book. But it is an emotional, dramatic, haunting and incredibly well-written debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By snowshoe36 on January 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got this book from Amazon. The book was awesome - I spent every spare minute in a chair reading it - I was sorry to see the book end!
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