Listen free for 30 days

The Hollow Ground

Narrated by: Luci Christian
Length: 10 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

The John Gardner Fiction Book Award, 2015

Appalachian Book of the Year (Fiction), 2014

Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award

"We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."

The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced 11-year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the black lung-stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades-old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Inspired by real-life events in Centralia and Carbondale, where devastating coal mine fires irrevocably changed the lives of residents, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. Lovers of literary fiction will find in Harnett's young, determined protagonist a character as heartbreakingly captivating as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

©2014 Natalie S. Harnett (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

“Harnett’s deeply atmospheric historical novel of the harsh old mining life captures the despair of a family at the mercy of the earth’s elements and their own worst impulses.” (Booklist)
“Brigid is no ordinary hard-luck heroine; her voice rings true, offering a matter-of-fact telling that never falls into self-pity or melodrama. Set against the 1960s Pennsylvania coal mine fires, this debut novel is a dark and rewarding read.” (Library Journal)
"Narrator Luci Christian's youthful charisma provides a natural portrayal of preteen Brigid Howley, who is struggling with family secrets in a poverty-stricken coal town in the 1960s. Christian's clear, delicate voice belies the girl's impoverished upbringing and poor education--but does depict Brigid's naïve hopefulness amid her family's wretched circumstances." (AudioFile)

More from the same

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1
  • 4 Stars
    0
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for NHull
  • NHull
  • 30-05-14

Disfunction makes a good read

Book review: The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett

Caveat: I'm not a reviewer, I have no experience at this. I actually won this book in a giveaway and was stunned by what I ended up listening to. (I won an audiobook version.)

To start, this isn't a book I believed I'd have interest in. A slice of life story of a young girl growing up in central Pennsylvania during the coal fires mid-20th Century. The subject and style of story are completely different than my normal reading material, which largely consist of Sci-Fi, history and military literature.

That said, this book sucks you in with the honest, bare, and real feeling of being there. The main character is honest and written as a real child in hard times, not a genius, not precocious, just a living feeling person suffering with the difficulties of living a destitute existence while enduring a broken family and the constant prospect of the mine fires taking her loved ones or home at any moment.

The story winds through the growth of this girl, from young child to young adult. It covers a variety of realities with ease, from the mine fires, to family dynamics, to homelessness, racism, alcoholism, abuse and abandonment.

The characters are written as real people, a hard thing to do with any work of fiction, but in this, they are exactly the type of people I spent my youth surrounded by. Entitled poor white trash that believes everyone owes them something, with the bullheaded pride of those not smart enough to know their own limitations and instead believe that their failures are the fault of an outside source, be that God, other people, the government or a family curse. The mother, especially embodies this, I literally wanted to smack the woman at times, seeing in her all of the worst flaws I recognize from many of my peers and their parents when I was a youth.

I can't recommend this book enough to anyone wanting a slow-paced, generally uplifting read with real insight into the human condition.

51 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for kimbacaffeinate
  • kimbacaffeinate
  • 20-06-14

The Hollow Ground was a poignant tale of heartach

Any additional comments?

Five reasons to grab your ear-buds and take a walk with The Hollow Ground:

1. Harnett realistically captures this small mining town and the horrific horrors they deal with from nightly checked for gas levels to a down turned economy devastated by the fires and the fleeing of townsfolk. She takes us into the dysfunctional home of eleven-year-old Brigid Howley an Irish-American family with secrets and hardship. The story is atmospheric, character driven and beautifully captures this period.

2. The story unfolds through Brigid Howley’s perspective as she narrators events, shares her family curse and reasons out the behavior of her family. She is a curious mixture of childlike innocents and wisdom beyond her years. Her voice is incredibly realistic and heartfelt. Readers will fall in love with Brigid, and her voice will engrain itself forever in your mind. Reviewers have likened her to Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I whole-heartily agree.

3. Harnett captures the raw emotions of this family exposing their secrets and daily struggles. She adds moments of light into this bleak world. Family can tear each other down and lift each other up like nobody’s business, and we gain an insider’s perspective that is real and raw through the eyes of this child. The tale was captivating and realistically portrayed.

4. The secondary characters had depth as Harnett held nothing back. Brigid’s parents were complicated, frustrating, and damaged. Harnett gave them powerful voices even when they said nothing. As the reader they stunned me, made me angry and yet Harnett allowed me to feel sympathy and gain understanding. Gram was an ornery hoot, who holds grudges, will not listen to reason and loves with a ferocious intensity. I both scorned and adored her.

5. The Hollow Ground is an atmospheric tale that will stay with you as will Brigid’s voice. Add this to your reading list if you enjoy tales inspired by actual events, learning about American history and delving into the dynamics of the dysfunctional families. Luci Christian the narrator did an excellent job of bringing Brigid and her family to life. Each character was easily recognizable and their emotions evident in her voice.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Laurie
  • Laurie
  • 06-12-14

Hollow tale

Wow - I wish Audible had classified this for what it really is - a "young adult" book. I always try to finish what I start, but this was tough. Not a great story for me but maybe for someone about 14.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Daryl
  • Daryl
  • 28-06-15

Vivid coming of age tale

Who was your favorite character and why?

I liked Brigid particularly, and even though at times I wanted to throttle her mother, I grew to empathize with her as well.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Fire and Ice

Any additional comments?

I liked this book immensely. There were times I could feel the burning ground beneath my feet, the anger at Brigid's grandmother, and the pain and confusion of growing up and being forced to confront reality. Yes, it is definitely more of a young adult novel, but it does contain mature themes that could be understood by adults.
It is a pot boiler of a novel, with flawed characters, some of whom I loved to hate. It is a poignant tale of family dysfunction, and how the things we believe to be true may not just be true.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Leah Gatlin
  • Leah Gatlin
  • 01-01-15

Wonderful

This is a sleeper .. And it's worth it. The last 3 chapters had me captivated. This is a must read .. Errrr, listen ... Particularly for those with abandonment issues.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Debbie
  • Debbie
  • 31-12-14

Good Story, But Long and Rambling

Good, historical tale about a mining family and a mining town . . . but it could have and should have been told in half the time . . . very repetitive, although it took nearly until the end to reveal all of the family's sad secrets . . . and there never really was a break through or good resolution.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-12-14

Totally Entertained

I Loved this story and the performance. Could not stop listening. I was so sorry to get to the end. So good I will relish listening to 8t again.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for GetWhatYouPayFor
  • GetWhatYouPayFor
  • 18-07-19

A downer about white trash in the 50s

While this book is narrated well and believably as though the character (a very introspective 12 year old girl) is speaking to you directly, the story is a continual downer about a white trash family in a doomed Pennsylvania Coal Mine town.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Cora Grimes
  • Cora Grimes
  • 02-03-19

Interesting, but Slow

The book brought some knowledge of the PA coal mine fires of the Sixties, which is something many are not familiar with. It tells the story of one mining family, and what happened with them during this time of job loss and challenge for many people who often did not even have a decent high school education.

The problem is that the story pace crawls from one point to the next, foreshadowing is rampant and obvious, and even a very good reader performance by Luci Christian couldn't pick up the interest level.

The story at its base is interesting, but don't expect it to make you wish for "one more chapter".

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for gingerbread
  • gingerbread
  • 13-07-18

Great detail!

This is a very interesting story of growing up in coal mine towns of Pennsylvania. It is so well written that I could see the landscape and the people as I listened while taking my morning walks. The characters are well written, I feel I have come to know them.