In this follow-up to his bestselling autobiography Rocket Boys, Homer Hickam chronicles the eventful autumn of 1959 in his hometown, the West Virginia mining town of Coalwood. Sixteen-year-old Homer and his pals in the Big Creek Missile Agency are high school seniors, still building homemade rockets and hoping that science will provide them with a ticket into the wider world of college and white-collar jobs. Such dreams make them suspect in a conservative small town where "getting above yourself" is the ultimate sin and where Homer's father, superintendent of the Coalwood mines, is stingy with praise and dubious about his son's ambitions. Homer's mother remains supportive, but bluntly reminds him, "You can't expect everything to go your way. Sometimes life just has another plan." Indeed, Hickam's unvarnished portrait of Coalwood covers class warfare (union miners battling with his authoritarian father), provincial narrow-mindedness (the local ladies scorn a young woman living outside wedlock with a man who abuses her), and endless gossiping along the picket "fence line." These sharp details make the unabashed sentiment of the book's closing chapters feel earned rather than easy. Hickam can spin a gripping yarn and keep multiple underlying themes and metaphors going at the same time. His tender but gritty memoir will touch readers' hearts and minds. --Wendy Smith
From the Back Cover:
From the #1 bestselling author of October Sky comes this rich, unforgettable tale. With the same dazzling storytelling that distinguished his first memoir, Homer Hickam takes us deeper into the soul of his West Virginia hometown at a moment when its unique way of life is buffeted by forces of time and change. It is fall 1959. Homer "Sonny" Hickam and his fellow Rocket Boys are in their senior year at Big Creek High, and the town of Coalwood finds itself at a painful crossroads. The strains can be felt within the Hickam home, where Homer Sr. struggles to save the mine, and his wife, Elsie, is feeling increasingly isolated from both her family and the townspeople. Sonny, despite a blossoming relationship with a local girl, finds his own mood darkened by an unexplainable sadness. Then, with the holidays approaching, trouble at the mine and the arrival of a beautiful young outsider bring unexpected changes in both the Hickam family and the town of Coalwood...as this luminous memoir moves toward its poignant conclusion.
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