The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett

July 3rd, 2014 Kimberly Review 50 Comments

3rd Jul
The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett
The Hollow Ground
by Natalie S. Harnett
Narrator: Luci Christian
Length: 10 hrs and 32 mins
Genres: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Narration: 4 cups

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

I grew up in South Jersey and as a young teen traveled with my maternal grandparents to central Pennsylvania for the day. There we toured an abandoned coalmine. We rode inside the tunnels on old coal cars draped in thick miner coats and helmets. We learned about working in the mines from the working conditions to the ailments workers suffered. We then visited abandon towns with boarded up windows and overgrown lawns.; viewed fields where smoke and sulfur gases rose from the ground licked by flames. It was dark, sad and oddly eerie. On the car ride home, I imagined what people in those towns must have experienced. Where did they go? Why did some choose to stay? It was one of those memories that stayed with me. When I was approached to review the audio version of The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett and realized, the story was about a family in this ravaged area I immediately accepted. The Hollow Ground was a poignant tale of heartache, growth and the ties that bind us.

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 the nightly checks for gas levels to the down turned economy. These towns were devastated by the fires and the fallout from fleeing townsfolk. She takes us into the dysfunctional home of eleven-year-old Brigid Howley. We gain insight into this 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 allowing the reader to smile. 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. 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.

The Hollow Ground evoked childhood memories and shared life inside one of those homes I saw years ago. To learn more about the fires that are still burning today you can read; “After 50 years, fire still burns underneath Pa. town” from USA Today or watch a video on YouTube about “Centralia The Ghost Town.”

“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.”

Photo of kimbacaffeinate
About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

50 Responses to “The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett”

  1. Teddyree

    I love it when I can tell from a review how much a book has touched you. This sounds like one I’d enjoy and I’m always up for new audio recommendations. Haven’t listened to anything narrated by Luci Christian and it sounds like I’m missing out. Thanks for wonderful review.

  2. Lupdilup

    This sounds fantastic Kimba! I don’t listen to a lot literary fiction, it’s mostly because I don’t get chance to read reviews on this genre. I’m so glad I’ll get that chance with you. I think this genre has an even an easier transition to audio than romance. I’ve never listened to anything by this narrator (unless he narrates under other names, like they often do). I’m glad he does a good job with the story. I’m adding this one to my wish list! 🙂 Thank you!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I really loved the protagonists voice in this one Loupe. I hope you give it a go. The narrator is a she

  3. Heidi

    I have toured a coal mine as well and found it to be a bit creepy and disturbing. I like the focus on historical but I know there would be plenty of tough parts in it that I am not up for right now,maybe down the road.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Added to your your maybe list, but I understand Heidi. Have a Happy 4th 🙂

  4. Amir

    I’m so glad you ended up connecting with this book on a really personal level Kimba! This book sounds realistic in it’s portrayal with a very honest and likable narrator. This isn’t a book I would normally read but your review definitely makes me want to check it out. Lovely review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I am glad I piqued your interest. The fact that the protagonist is so young makes this an excellent choice for exploring a genre outside your normal reading zone. Maybe from the library?

  5. Braine Talk Supe

    Books that gets you connected like this are the best ones. It adds depth and you can’t help but get invested in the story. I saw a documentary about those coal mines long ago, I don’t know how those people did it in the past, I’m sure a lot of people died from those fires. The curse element puts a great interesting twist in this. Awesome breakdown, Kimberly!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      The curse was interesting, and fits with the period and Irish-American family.

  6. Katherine

    This sounds like a good audiobook for me to try. I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own but the comparison to Scout and how well it sounds like the characters were done sounds very intriguing.

  7. Tanja

    It’s always amazing when you emotionally connect with the story. It makes you enjoy it even more. I haven’t heard of this one but I love the sound of it. I like how realistic it sounds and also Brigid sounds amazing. Lovely review, Kim 🙂

  8. Lark

    What Candace said. Absolutely. But given the comparison to Scout, perhaps I ought to read To Kill a Mockingbird first?

    • kimbacaffeinate

      What? *blinks* Lark…you haven’t read TKAMB? Ahhhhhh. Stop everything and read it…one of my favorites!

      • Lark

        I know, I know! I admitted it in this week’s TTT – it’s on my list of classics I want to read. Neither my middle school nor my high school assigned it, and somehow it just kept slipping through the cracks. I’ll get to it, I swear. Just not this month nor probably next; I’m swamped.

  9. Candace

    Wow Kimba, this is an especially beautiful review. You really captured my attention with your words. I would say that’s a testament to the beauty and power of the book. This sounds like one I would really connect with and enjoy.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Awe thanks Candace, I loved the rawness of it.

  10. Andrea

    The Hollow Ground sounds so amazing! And any main character who is compared to Scout Finch has my attention.
    Great review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Andrea, and yes the Scout comparison was spot on.

  11. kindlemom1

    This sounds fantastic Kim! We have an old mining town here as well (for gold) and while not quite the same it still has that same atmosphere you are talking about. The town is mostly boarded up now and even the water that they mined is now considered unsafe to be in. It is very sad to see. I remember going on a class field trip in school and feeling the towns despair.

  12. Nick

    Gosh, this sounds like such a emotional read. I don’t think I would be able to read this book, especially because it’s based on real life events. It sounds too sad and gruesome for me. I’m glad you liked this one so much, Kim.
    Lovely review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It wasn’t that kind of emotional read Nick, it was raw yes, but what a family.

  13. Rita

    I am intrigued by this story and have to admit I never knew about the fires still burning. I have been to PA many times, as my husband has relatives in eastern PA.

    I like the comparison to Scout! I just love TKAM, the book and the movie (gotta love Gregory Peck, the strong, silent type!) I will be checking this out further, but I wonder if maybe listening to it would be more satisfactory than reading it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Ooo Rita, TKAM is one of my favorites, and the comparison to Scout is such a good one. The narrator really brought it to life for me.

  14. Debbie Haupt

    Kimba, thanks for this very informative and eloquent review. I LOVE learning history through historical fiction, sort of a sanitized and entertaining version of history.
    this one looks like a must listen, thanks!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It was interesting seeing the impact for this family.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This is one I think you will enjoy Christine.

  15. Mary

    Being compared to Scout — that’s a strong comparison that really appeals, you know?

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Are you a huge fan of To Kill A Mockingbird? I love that novel and have re-read it dozens of times. Brigid’s voice is powerful, raw and true.

  16. Stephanie Faris

    I miss listening to audiobooks. When I had a long commute, I went through so many books. Now I work from home, so I have to work reading in while I’m on the treadmill and such.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I have a 5 min commute, but I listen at home as I clean, garden and on walks.

  17. Rashika

    Wow. This books sounds so emotional and so moving! It’s great that your personal experience allows you to connect to this book even more though! I am definitely curious about this book now…

    Fantastic review, Kimba!! 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I loved the protagonist’s voice in this Rashika

  18. Melliane

    It sounds like an intense read, and I confess I didn’t know this one but I want now to discover a little more about the story and this family. Thanks for the discovery!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Melliane, to be honest it was totally new to me as well.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was cool because both the fires and the family were equally interesting. The focus was on the family itself though.

  19. Christy

    Wow, this sounds really good. I remember learning about Centralia when I was younger, and then reading a book about it when I was older. It’s so crazy that it has been going since the 60s and will continue to do so for 100s of years. It’s a mixture of fascination, sadness, creepiness. Definitely a good setting for a book.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      True, I visited in the 70’s and again in the late 90’s.

  20. Siiri

    I’m glad you felt an emotional connection to it and had a personal experience related to this one. I love when secondaries are just as important for the author and they try to give them depth as well. So good to hear you enjoyed that. Oh, yes! I imagine the atmosphere is quite haunting. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Kim!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Siiri, it did evoke memories of my visit, and it was neat having that visual in my mind as I listened.