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

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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


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: #958,976 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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Twenty-seven-year-old Cole Freeman has lived in rural Dove County, West Virginia for his entire life. Raised by his snake-handling pastor grandfather and his doting grandmother, he has never felt completely comfortable, although he lacks the motivation to make changes. Cole works as an aide in a nursing home, and many of the elderly residents take to him for his gentle manner and willingness to indulge them by listening to their stories and not dissuading them when they confuse him for a long-lost relative.

While Cole doesn't mind spending time with the residents, his job has a lucrative side benefit, in that he is able to steal money and other valuables from them, and they're often too unaware to realize it. He also resells the prescription medications that some of his grandmother's friends and other people in the community sell him. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he feels powerless to stop what he has put into motion.

His grandfather's fire-and-brimstone preaching scarred him in many ways, and coupled with a childhood stutter, Cole has never been able to truly feel good about himself. As a teenager he had a very close relationship with his best friend, Terry Rose, who moved away and got married. But Terry's return to Dove County unsettles Cole in a number of ways, and it affects the relationships he pursues with two different women, each of whom has their own issues to deal with.

Dove County is under siege from the local mining corporation, which has been buying up and destroying all of the available land it can, convincing residents to sell their property and move away. Yet Cole has convinced his grandmother not to sell her land, and he refuses to do so either, despite the opportunities he could pursue with the money.
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