A Bird on Water Street.

Author:Rigby, Karen
Position:Book review

Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author); A BIRD ON WATER STREET; Little Pickle Press (Children's: Juvenile Fiction) 9.99 ISBN: 9781939775054

Byline: Karen Rigby

A one-company town falters, and amid the human drama, nature begins to reclaim what had been lost.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba's illuminating historical novel, A Bird on Water Street, recounts the legacy of copper mining in Coppertown, a fictionalized version of Copperhill, an Appalachian enclave between Tennessee and Georgia. From the 1986 perspective of Jack Hicks, a teen born into a family of miners, the company, compared to a "black scab on the horizon," is a stark counterpoint to his own desire for the majesty of trees.

Noticeably absent amid the sulfur clouds, acid rain, and erosion, trees come to symbolize a coveted life. A Bird on Water Street unfolds as a lucid, matter-of-fact account of the environmental toll wrought by the mining industry, and of Jack's decision to search for a different future.

Also the author and illustrator of numerous children's books, Dulemba ably captures the scarred community in grief and celebration. The languid, episodic plot includes a mining accident, mass layoffs, a bluegrass gathering, holidays, weather events, a funeral, and other moments that underscore the close-knit nature of a place dominated by one employer. Tensions between employees and management are briefly touched on, as well.

The story of Jack bristling against his father's expectations that he, too, should become a miner unfolds against the backdrop of an extended miner's strike, which Dulemba portrays with realistic stasis. Chapter by chapter, the effects of uncertainty wear on Jack's family, manifesting through increasing thrift and arguments.

Despite potentially dark...

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