Strange as this weather has been : a novel

by Ann Pancake

Paper Book, 2007


Set in present day West Virginia, Ann Pancake's debut novel,Strange As This Weather Has Been, tells the story of a coal mining family--a couple and their four children--living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to slag and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters. Strange As This Weather Has Been follows several members of the family, with a particular focus on fifteen-year-old Bant and her mother, Lace. Working at a "scab" motel, Bant becomes involved with a young miner while her mother contemplates joining the fight against the mining companies. As domestic conflicts escalate at home, the children are pushed more and more outside among junk from the floods and felled trees in the hollows--the only nature they have ever known. But Bant has other memories and is as curious and strong-willed as her mother, and ultimately comes to discover the very real threat of destruction that looms as much in the landscape as it does at home.… (more)



Call number



Emeryville, CA : Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007.

User reviews

LibraryThing member shabbyrabbit
I read this book to try to capture MY own feelings and emotions of memories in the West Virginia Mountains. And I think Ann Pancake and I have traveled some of the same winding mountain roads. From Beckley to the New River Gorge familiarity abounded. But no where so much as in the characters we
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follow from a typically dysfunctional family, especially Lace and Bant who seemed every bit a piece of not only myself but so many of the people I’ve known. Mountain-folk or Flatlanders. Strange as this Weather Has Been revolves around Lace and Bant primarily. Mother and daughter looking at life in the mountains. And the choices left for their future; or lack there of. And about just how deep roots run. Told in the voices of the family members, SATWHB switches chronology and POV but I had no trouble following where who was where when or how they felt, which was crucial. Pancake’s prose kept me right there in both imagination and memory and I could smell the loamy humid richness of the dark of the wooded mountain. The family was one million percent believable and relatable. They are neighbors and friends we all know. They are headstrong girls making questionable decisions and they are headstrong boys feeling so inferior their only recourse becomes an over abundance of pride. And I loved each and every one. Despite themselves.My one criticism is wondering if those not familiar with this region; with abandoned mines and hollers filled with trailers on hewn out ‘shelves’ on the mountain side, would really have enough of a frame of reference to ‘get’ this book. But I’m not sure those without that frame of ref. were Pancakes target audience. Regardless, I say READ IT! Push on through the parts you don’t get, it’ll make enough sense and then you wont miss any of the wonderful Because you see Strange As This Weather Has Been reads like any best seller list dystopian novel. Except this is REAL. The conditions are REAL. The continued destruction is REAL!!! I could not believe these practices were not punishable by the harshest laws in the universe what mountain top removal strip mining does to IRREPARABLY harm this precious, precious ecosystem. And it is those who still live in nervous silence that I believe Ms Ann Pancake was trying to reach… and I wish I could help her. I very much loved this book, but in a way you love your teenager when they are being, well, teenagers: sometimes with difficulty. This book is emotionally challenging but more than worth the effort. I doubt it will leave you unchanged. My Ancestors settled an area called Panther Mountain. I don’t know yet where that is today exactly, but I hope Ann’s book helps save it. And, God Forbid, it doesn’t. I will trust Ann’s skill as a talented writer to keeping the memory of those who lived the unique life of West Virginia in all her shame and glory.
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LibraryThing member hapakine
Amazing first novel. Anyone who's recommended by Wendell Berry as embodying West Virginia you already surmise is going to be good, but read it for yourself. You'll be happy you did. Strange as This Weather brought back feelings from my childhood, growing up half-wild in all the unkempt corners of
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my neighborhood, but amplifies them to a beautiful and heart-wrenching degree.
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LibraryThing member kmaziarz
West Virginia native Lace See tried hard to escape the mountains of her childhood, but an irresponsible tryst with teenaged Jimmy Make left her pregnant and living back in her childhood home. Bereft of college, she received a different education in the company of her woods-wise mother and learned
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to love the mountains and forests around her like never before—a love that was passed along to daughter Bant.

At the open of the novel, Lace—now unhappily married to Jimmy Make and mother to four of his children—finds her beloved mountains threatened by strip mining operations that have literally destroyed an entire mountaintop and caused a flash flood that killed several of her neighbors and poisoned the waters. With Jimmy unable to work due to injury and Lace unable to supplement their income by collecting plants off the now-corrupted mountainsides, the family faces not only crushing poverty but the constant threat of further floods, poisonous water, and worse.

Beautifully written in the slow, almost elegiac rhythms of the region, “Strange as This Weather Has Been” is a moving meditation on humanity’s relationship with nature and humanity’s peculiar talent to destroy that which it should most cherish. Seen through the eyes of Lace and her children, the strip-mining of Appalachia becomes not just an environmental disaster, but an overwhelmingly personal human tragedy.
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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
I bought this book because years ago I read the stories of Breece D'J Pancake, who is, I believe, a distant cousin of Ann. Breece too wrote movingly and affectively about his native West Virginia. This new book, while unrelentingly grim and unceasingly sad, is an act of love on the author's part.
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She manages to convey her love of the hills, valleys and mountains of West Virgina, while offering the most scathing indictment of the unscrupulous methods of Big Coal. I was reminded of the books of Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys (aka October Sky. Suffice it to say that this is a beautiful piece of writing, but it's very hard to read because of its subject, the rape of a beautiful region.
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Washington State Book Award (Finalist — 2008)
Weatherford Award (Fiction and Poetry — 2007)
Orion Book Award (Finalist — 2008)


Original publication date



159376166X / 9781593761660
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