Wolfe introduced me to Ninie Hammon. I’m so glad he did! She is a masterful story teller and an artist with words. The enchantment of Eastern Kentucky shines in this tale and the suspense is breathtaking.
Black Sunshine : A Novel – Ninie Hammon
This story takes us into the underground coal mines of Eastern, Kentucky. It also takes us into the heart of the hard realities of this trade. Further, the story plunges us into the tragedy of a mine explosion that killed 27 men, husbands, dads, brothers, uncles, grandfathers.
There are two survivors. Will Gribbins runs as far as he can from Aintree Hollow with a shame that finds him first in The Navy and then at the bottom of many empty whiskey bottles. Lloyd Jacobs stays in the community and spends the next 20 years trying to make up for his survivor’s guilt by being a real good guy. If you need a hand, Lloyd is there for you.
And it is 20 years later that Will decides to come back to Aintree Hollow to seek some sort of redemption for his tortured secret resulting from that deadly blast. He’s going to confess. He’s going to lay it all on the line. He’s going to take whatever punishment he deserves and he’s going to get the monkey off his back. Granny Sparrow welcomes Will back with open arms and love that spills out all over the place. Lloyd, however, is not in the least happy to see Will’s return. He has morbid secrets too.
Will’s decision to come out from under stalls out, however at every junction. Family complexities and second thoughts plague Will’s best intentions. Not only that, he’s about to get murdered.
Hammon’s depiction of the belly of the mines, the sound of the people, the portrait of truly, good, kind folks reveals a reverence for her subject and characters. Her masterful shocks in evolving plots keeps you reading in bed ’til morning. And her pivotal switchbacks never rely on stock solutions to complex problems.
I like the way Jamey Boy brings an element of sheer beauty and ultimate truth out of the blackness, the hardness, the dirtiness of coal. Things are not always as they seem. And there is Power beyond our ability to comprehend. This is where the story begins and ends.