Storming Heaven is a work of historical fiction depicting the formation of the coal miner’s union in early 20th century West Virginia. Giardina presents each chapter with the perspective of various characters, including a coal miner, a union activist, a nurse and an immigrant. Because of the style of narrative, the language of these people really comes across and it does take a while to read the Appalachian dialect comfortably.
That said, it was a very moving novel. It’s a hard look back at a time when workers were treated as little more than slaves, held captive by the powerful companies they worked for. Local law enforcement, rather than helping these poor men and their families, were recruited by the coal companies to serve their crooked interests.
Hope comes in the form of union organizers, but the coal companies are determined to fight back, using guerrilla tactics. Giardina portrays the culmination of her story in the Battle of Blair Mountain, a true story of the 1921 West Virginia coal strike, and it’s bloody outcome. Excellent book!
4 stars (out of 4)
Published in 1988