Book Review - Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

I get it. I really do. Barbara Kingsolver's modern envisioning of David Copperfield comes in the form Demon Copperhead. Like David Copperfield, Demon Copperhead takes a look at orphans and the services that are provided and fail them. David Copperfield isn't the only inspiration, this book will give many vibes similar to Beth Mercy's Dopesick as well. That is to say, this is bleak.

And it's never not bleak. 

Demon is born into poverty, and we see that poverty play out in the most grim of ways. Overdoses, uncaring foster parents, and exploitive child work practices all become mere backdrops. What first becomes harsh and shocking, soon numbs your senses. Kingsolver builds the most disturbing images and then somehow beats you down by showing you something equally grotesque.

Characters make bad decision after bad decision, heroes will fail you, and our main character Demon is on the receiving end of all of it. It's overwhelming. And fascinating. For the first 300 pages, this was the car crash you rubberneck. But as Demon starts to take on his own bad decisions, I felt weary. The next 250 pages remain interesting, but I was battered. 

What doesn't help is the text continues to sprawl out, introducing character after character, while looping back to characters you once thought were forgotten. On one hand, it's amazing Kingsolver can weave so many threads, on another, you will feel exhausted by both the adventure and the scope. 

But this isn't a novel written for enjoyment. Irredeemable is the goal. Hope happens with slivers of sunlight only to be snuffed out moments later. The one bright spot comes in the form of a character we meet quite a bit into the text, Angus. The bond between Angus and Demon is one that really propelled me forward. And even when she exits the text, you know her return is inevitable. She really is the bond that holds the story together because once Demon starts making poor actions, the momentum of the text shifts. It remains fascinating, but with so much grim and grime, I found the whole experience to be tough. 

Did I enjoy it? That's a stretch. Did I find it admirable and fascinating? Absolutely. So like I said at the beginning, I get. I really do. The writing is gorgeous and the imagery that Kingsolver builds to these grim realities is virtually unparallel. There's absolute no surprise it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. But you have to ready yourself because both the content and the sheer size will test your volition.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Release Date: October 18, 2022
MSRP: $19.99


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