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Book Review :: Once These Hills by Chris McGinley

Once These Hills by Chris McGinley book cover image

Guest Post by Ashley Holloway

Set in 1898, Chris McGinley’s rural noir saga Once These Hills introduces the reader to life in eastern Kentucky on Black Boar Mountain, a world relatively untouched by modernization. Gaining momentum quickly, this story follows protagonist Lydia King, then aged 10, as she navigates life in a world that favors only the few. By championing strong female characters throughout the book, McGinley emphasizes the hardships of life in the early part of the twentieth century in rural Appalachia and how survival truly was reserved for the fittest.

As life starts to change on Black Boar Mountain, McGinley explores the relationship between big business and politics where the arrival of the Railway Company and its single-minded pursuit of advancement serves as a brilliant metaphor for our North American history of colonialism and capitalism. Through its insightful and nuanced dialogue and well-paced storyline, McGinley highlights the relationships between power, influence, and affluence, and how modernization often leaves some behind. In Once These Hills, McGinley has created a full-circle story with well-developed, three-dimensional characters, wrapping them up in a saga that successfully reminds us of the inevitability of the future; it is coming, and McGinley wants us to be prepared.

Once These Hills by Chris McGinley. Shotgun Honey, August 2023.

Reviewer Bio: Ashley Holloway gets bored easily, so she lives her life according to an ‘&.’ She teaches healthcare leadership in Calgary, AB, and is a nurse with a Master of Public Health, a graduate diploma in Global Leadership, with further studies in intercultural communication and international development. She writes in a variety of genres with work appearing across Canada and the US and has co-authored three books. Ashley is an editor for Unleash Press and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She also really loves punctuation.