The book Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina is historical fiction which is loosely based on real people. The book discusses the trials and tribulations of the Coal War in West Virginia and the surrounding areas. The book takes place during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Storming Heaven is written from perspectives of different characters. This gives the reader a broader perspective of the events of the time. Since the characters are both male and females the readers learn to understand the struggles each gender had to deal with.
Giardina wrote the book to educate others about the Coal War and the coal workers fight for better living and working conditions. Storming Heaven shows how the theme the Land and its People throughout. Storming Heaven was a very compelling novel based a lot around the Land and its People. The entire story is coal workers fighting for better working and life conditions. It takes the readers throughout this fight and the effects of the natural forces that these people deal with on a daily basis.
The book starts out discussing that the family slept naked during the summers and fully dressed under quilts in the winter. The entire book is based around coal miners. All of the people in this book specifically live in these areas specifically to coal mine. The jobs and population of the areas where these people live are because the land has coal on it. The entire setting of the book is because of the lands materials. This land created coal mining jobs for the people living there as well as increased the population. The land sometime kills these coal miners.
Coal mining is a dangerous career and sometimes the land above them collapses and they die from suffocation. A large negative effect nature had on the coal miners was the weather. When the miners and their family decided to go on strike they were kicked out of their houses. This forced them to live in tents. They dealt with the freezing cold temperatures which caused people to die, get ill and get frost bite. One girl had to have both of her feet removed due to the frost bite. If she did not have to be out in the cold she would have never had to lose her feet.
The land affected these people forever. Many people may read this book and question why these people did not just leave the area. All of West Virginia and Kentucky that had any type of coal on it was taken over by business owners. None of the people who lived there actually owned their house any longer. So why not leave? It becomes evident that the people loved the land in these areas and it was their home. They loved the mountains and the entire area. In the book it was said “I have traveled outside the mountains, but never lived apart from them.
I always feared mountains would be as jealous, as unforgiving, as any spurned lover. Leave them and they may never take you back. Besides, I never felt a need to go. There is enough to study in these hills to last a lifetime” (Giardina 224). This passage shows how closely these people could relate to the land surrounding them. As well as being a book about the people and its land it is also a book about history. Although the book is fiction it is based around historical facts during that time period. The conditions that these people lived and worked in is completely true.
They worked from the early morning until dusk and were paid barely anything. Inside the mines there was always the possibility of it caving in on or the inhalation of methane. Boys very young as it was shown in the book would leave school to go work in the mine with their father. The strike of the miners was also an actual event that happened. They were tired of the terrible conditions and awfully low pay. Coal miners were paid low wages especially when they risked their lives every day. The Battle of Blair Mountain is also a true historical battle in West Virginia.
The ending of the battle had a terrible end, “The defeat of the miners at Blair Mountain temporarily ended the UMWA’s organizing efforts in the southern coalfield” (“West Virginia’s Mine Wars” 1). Although a defeat was not what the workers wanted at the time “Blair Mountain stands as a powerful symbol for workers to this day” (“West Virginia’s Mine Wars” 1). Most of Storming Heaven has a historical background to it. In conclusion, Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina is a historical fiction novel that educates her readers about the Coal Wars in West Virginia.
She does this by having each chapter come from a different main characters point of view. This is effective because it shows the struggles of different genders throughout the time period. The theme of people and the land is also evident throughout the entire book. Coal itself is part of the land and coal is such a large part of these people’s lives. The struggles hat they went through because of the weather during their strike were important. As well as why they did not just leave, because of their love for the land.
The history behind this book was extremely important because most of the events were based on actual historical events. These touches make the reader that much more involved in the book. The way Giardina used the history in her fiction made the reader learn while being captivated by the story. Her strength through words made me want to learn more about the Coal Wars and the current situation of coal miners in West Virginia. Especially, how the fight at Blair Mountain crippling everything they were fighting for with the strike