Guest Post by Kevin Brown
In her latest novel, Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver updates Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (thus the name of the titular character), moving the story to turn-of-the-millenium Appalachia. This approach tempts those readers who are familiar with Dickens’s novel to play a matching game with characters and events, but Kingsolver’s novel goes much further than a literary exercise that tests readers’ nineteenth-century novel knowledge. Her interest in updating Dickens’ novel is to explore the poverty rampant in Appalachia (as it was in Dickens’s London), a problem made significantly worse because of the opiod crisis. While Dickens’s David struggles through his own forms of exploitation, Kingsolver’s Demon, his friends, and his family are all victims in various ways to the addiction that pharmaceutical companies created in places and people who lacked the means to fight back. As with cases from real life, Demon comes by his addictions innocently, but then struggles with them for hundreds of pages, despite those around him who are trying to help. While Kingsolver shows a community decimated by drugs, she creates characters—as does Dickens—the reader cares about. She puts a face to the headlines many of us have the luxury of skimming over and reminds readers there are too many people whose lives seem destined for destruction, through no fault of their own.
Demon Copperhead by Barabara Kingsolver. Harper Collins Publishers, October 2022.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.