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What Are Buzz Residents Reading?: Q&A with Payal Chana

Cindy Burnett
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Demon Copperhead

Payal Chana recently read Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver and highly recommends it.

This week, I interviewed Buzz resident Payal Chana about what she has read recently and loved. She selected Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, which is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia.

Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Booklist gave this one a starred review saying, “Kingsolver’s capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny survivor’s tale is a virtuoso present-day variation on Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield….Kingsolver’s tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance.”

Here is what Payal has to say about it:

What is the best book you have read recently? 
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. 

What did you like about it? What made it stand out to you? 
I love books about journeys and character resilience. I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Unsheltered and really loved her rich character development. Demon Copperhead is beautifully written, it was more than I could have ever expected, an epic blockbuster. 

Demon, the main character of this book, beautifully narrates his own life from day one of his birth in a small community in the Southern Appalachians. My heart melted and burst with joy simultaneously while I read his extremely difficult, emotional, uplifting roller coaster of a journey. Demon, born to a teenage single mother, a victim of the opioid crisis herself, has the odds stacked against him. Kingsolver, who resides in the Appalachians, sets the story in Lee County, ground zero of the opioid epidemic, packs a powerful double punch - a page turner (future movie done well, I hope) and, a public service announcement, especially to the audience who has not witnessed or understood the deep devastation opioids can do to a community.

The message in this novel was more powerful as it was portrayed through characters that I came to care about deeply. Demon’s resilience can be summed up by his own words “because going nowhere fast is a kind of juice”. If you have read David Copperfield, you will recognize similarities in some of the characters and themes. What stood out for me is how the book was written from the point of view of the child, his dark experiences of being an orphan, living through the foster care system, poverty, opioids and still being able to turn to the next page. 

How did you learn about the book? 
It was a book club pick!

What are you reading now? 
I am reading Exiles, Jane Harper, Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica, and It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover! All are excellent so far! And Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is on my list to read soon.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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