Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Deep Peril, Deep Feelings

Review: In Too Deep by Jennifer K. Clark

Kudos to Clark for a thrilling story about coal mining and women working underground that gets it right. But the novel is only superficially about a woman miner at a Utah coal mine; this tale goes much deeper than that. It explores the depth of relationships, the depth of childhood traumas—even the depths to which people might stoop in pursuit of a political agenda or a business deal.

Haley Carter does well as a novice miner, despite a lot of mistreatment from the men, who call her "Scab", steal or spoil her lunch daily, and fill shower-heads in the women's changing facility with blue dye. 

As the story unfolds, we learn a lot about Haley and her inability to connect with others. We observe her courage in dealing with the petty harassment of her co-workers, and the painful challenge of caring for a parent who constantly calls her by her absent sister's name. 

Haley's childhood trauma has taught her to hold other adults at arm's length—her family, potential boyfriends, even her roommate Kim. After she begins working underground, though, there are obvious parallels between Haley's slowly-thawing heart, her widening circle of friends, and her gradual acceptance into the camaraderie of working miners. 

Clark has her facts correct. More important, she has caught the feel of miners for the dignity, even nobility, of their occupation:
There were those people who had walked on the moon, and then there were those who walked miles beneath the earth’s surface. It was an experience only other miners understood...


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