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The Evening Hour: A Novel by Carter Sickels
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The Evening Hour: A Novel

by Carter Sickels

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This book tells the story of a man named Cole who works as an aid in a nursing home in a rural town in the heart of coal mining country in West Virginia. Cole is a loner, raised by his strict religious grandparents. Cole feeds,bathes,shops and takes care of the old people not just at the nursing home but all throughout the holler. Unfortunately Cole is also a drug dealer, who peddles the surplus drugs of these old people. Many of the people he deals to or buys from are real characters. The area where the book takes place is depressing but the story isn't. It is sad that there are these types of great books out there, and they get little or no promotion. This was a great story. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jul 20, 2014 |
I love it when I stumble across a book that ends up being a gratifying read.

That's what happened with The Evening Hour, Carter Sickels' debut novel. I saw a short review of it somewhere but don't remember what it was that prompted me to put it on the reserve list at the library. Even after I brought it home I almost didn't read it. The description on the back cover just didn't sound like the type of book I like. I gave it a chance and after reading it in two sittings over less than 24 hours, it was clear that was a good decision.

The Evening Hour is an extremely well-written (and readable) story in which you succumb to the plot and the characters. It's not a thriller. It's not fast-paced. It's not filled with action or adventure. In its own quiet way, it's one of those books that you kind of dread finishing.

Set in the "hollers" and back roads near a small coal mining community in West Virginia, Sickels gives us plenty of believable characters who are "have-nots" and heading toward even less -- or worse. Other than the coal mining industry, the only jobs seem to be low-paying service jobs, whether at a local eatery or Walmart. The book is written from the viewpoint of Cole Freeman, an aide at a nursing home who makes more money selling prescription drugs of the elderly to the younger. But the book is not built solely on Freeman. Sickels gives us a sense of the people, the land, environmental degradation, drug and meth use in rural areas, and the ties that somehow keep people in places where they realize there's probably no better future.

It's not that Freeman's story isn't interesting. He was raised by his snake-handling Pentecostal minister godfather and has only seen his mother once since she disappeared immediately after his birth 27 years before. Not surprisingly, he has some religious and mother issues to work out. His drug-dealing and occasional thieving seem diametrically opposed to the deep care and concern he has for family, friends and the elderly both in the nursing home and outside it. Although Freeman seems to have synthesized these elements and become someone who senses there is more going on in the lives of area residents than is always apparent.

At times the setting conjures a Winter's Bone-type feel. Here, though, Freeman is not on a mission; like his friends and family, he is simply living life as he has come to know it. The Evening Hour can be and frequently is bleak. Yet the unforced realism is a large part of what grabs and maintains the reader's interest.

The book may well not top or even make my best of the year list. But that's not a prerequisite for enjoying an exemplary novel.

(Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)
  PrairieProgressive | Mar 2, 2012 |
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"First-time novelist Sickels paints Cole's experience with an unflinching hand. Give this to fans of regional literature and authors or display along with works by the likes of Sharyn McCrumb, Dorothy Allison, Barbara Kingsolver, Carolyn Chute, and Rick Bragg."
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Jennifer B. Stidham (Nov 1, 2011)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 160819597X, Paperback)

Most of the wealth in Dove Creek, West Virginia, is in the earth-in the coal seams that have provided generations with a way of life. Born and raised here, twenty-seven-year-old Cole Freeman has sidestepped work as a miner to become an aide in a nursing home. He's got a shock of bleached blond hair and a gentle touch well suited to the job. He's also a drug dealer, reselling the prescription drugs his older patients give him to a younger crowd looking for different kinds of escape.

In this economically depressed, shifting landscape, Cole is floundering. The mining corporation is angling to buy the Freeman family's property, and Cole's protests only feel like stalling. Although he has often dreamed of leaving, he has a sense of duty to this land, especially after the death of his grandfather. His grandfather is not the only loss: Cole's one close friend, Terry Rose, has also slipped away from him, first to marriage, then to drugs. While Cole alternately attempts romance with two troubled women, he spends most of his time with the elderly patients at the home, desperately trying to ignore the decay of everything and everyone around him. Only when a disaster befalls these mountains is Cole forced to confront his fears and, finally, take decisive action-if not to save his world, to at least save himself.

The Evening Hour marks the powerful debut of a writer who brings originality, nuance, and an incredible talent for character to an iconic American landscape in the throes of change.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:23 -0400)

Most of the wealth in Dove Creek, West Virginia, is in the earth-in the coal seams that have provided generations with a way of life. Born and raised here, twenty-seven-year-old Cole Freeman has sidestepped work as a miner to become an aide in a nursing home. He's got a shock of bleached blond hair and a gentle touch well suited to the job. He's also a drug dealer, reselling the prescription drugs his older patients give him to a younger crowd looking for different kinds of escape.In this economically depressed, shifting landscape, Cole is floundering. The mining corporation is angling to buy the Freeman family's property, and Cole's protests only feel like stalling. Although he has often dreamed of leaving, he has a sense of duty to this land, especially after the death of his grandfather. His grandfather is not the only loss: Cole's one close friend, Terry Rose, has also slipped away from him, first to marriage, then to drugs. While Cole alternately attempts romance with two troubled women, he spends most of his time with the elderly patients at the home, desperately trying to ignore the decay of everything and everyone around him. Only when a disaster befalls these mountains is Cole forced to confront his fears and, finally, take decisive action-if not to save his world, to at least save himself.Avoiding a coal-mining job by working as a nursing home aide and covertly reselling unused prescription drugs, West Virginia native Cole Freeman half-heartedly resists a mining corporation's efforts to buy his family's land and pursues relationships with two troubled women until a disastrous threat forces Cole to confront his fears.… (more)

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