From the New York Times bestselling author of Unsheltered and Flight Behavior, a brilliant novel which enthralls, compels, and captures the heart as it evokes a young hero’s unforgettable journey to maturity.
“Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose.”
Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia. It’s the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.
Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.
Barbara Kingsolver grew up in rural Kentucky and earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona before becoming a freelance writer and author. At various times in life she has lived in England, France, and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to southwestern Virginia where she currently resides.
Her fifteen books include short stories, essay collections, poetry, and seven novels. In the first decade of the new millennium, following her well-known work The Poisonwood Bible, she published two novels (prior to this one) and three non-fiction books including Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a narrative of her family’s locavore year that helped launch a modern transition in America’s food culture. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and has been adopted into the core literature curriculum in high schools and colleges throughout the nation.
Kingsolver was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. In 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. Critical acclaim for her books includes multiple awards from the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, among many others. The Poisonwood Bible was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Orange Prize, and won the national book award of South Africa, before being named an Oprah Book Club selection. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle won numerous prizes including the James Beard award. The Lacuna won Britain’s prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010, and last year she was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work.
In 1998, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize for fiction, the nation’s largest prize for an unpublished first novel, which has helped to establish the careers of more than a half dozen new literary voices. Through a recent agreement the prize has now become the PEN / Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
Barbara has two daughters, Camille and Lily. Her husband, Steven Hopp, teaches environmental studies. Since June 2004, Barbara and her family have lived on a farm in southern Appalachia, where they raise an extensive vegetable garden and Icelandic sheep.
“Absorbing….Readers see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath Demon’s self-protective exterior…. Emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it…. An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.” — Kirkus Review (Starred Review)
“Kingsolver’s capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny survivor’s tale is a virtuoso present-day variation on Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield….Kingsolver’s tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance.” — Booklist (Starred Review)
“A deeply evocative story…Kingsolver’s account of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the social fabric of Appalachia is drawn to heartbreaking effect. This is a powerful story, both brilliant in its many social messages regarding foster care, child hunger, and rural struggles, and breathless in its delivery.” — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Demon is a voice for the ages—akin to Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield—only even more resilient. I’m crazy about this book, which parses the epidemic in a beautiful and intimate new way. I think it’s her best.” — Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
“Kingsolver brings a notably different energy from her previous work to Demon Copperhead…through a tremendous narrative voice, one so sharp and fresh as to overwhelm the reader’s senses….Demon’s spirit comes through, and it is haunting. It’s the reason the pages keep turning….Kingsolver has made this story her own, and what a joy it is to slip into this world and inhabit it, even with all its challenges.” — BookPage
“An Appalachian David Copperfield...DEMON COPPERHEAD reimagines Dickens’s story in a modern-day rural America contending with poverty and opioid addiction....Like Dickens, she is unblushingly political and works on a sprawling scale...Episode by episode she persuasively conveys the mind of a teenage boy….It’s hard to think of another living novelist who could take a stab at Dickens and rise above the level of catastrophe.” — New York Times
“Demon Copperhead is a propulsive reading experience, energetic and funny while still conveying Kingsolver’s fury at the institutions that have let her community down.” — Slate
“If you’re familiar with the Charles Dickens classic, you’ll follow the story’s beats and chuckle….What keeps you turning the pages is the knowledge that Demon has a future. The novel ends on a note of hope...not every fate is decided by the circumstances of one’s birth.” — Associated Press
"There’s really nothing like being immersed in a Kingsolver novel….Damon [is Kingsolver’s] bravest, most ambitious creation yet." — Los Angeles Times
“An extraordinary new novel....Much like Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain or Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, Kingsolver’s epic is narrated by a self-professed screwup with a heart of gold...chock-full of cinematic twists and turns. It’s a book that demands we start paying attention to — and embracing — a long-ignored community and its people." — San Francisco Chronicle
“You’ll be enthralled by [Demon’s] voice, simultaneously hilarious and wise, as he illuminates life in rural America…..this is the ideal late-fall read to sink your teeth into.” — Real Simple
“With its bold reversals of fate and flamboyant cast, this is storytelling on a grand scale….As Demon discovers, owning his story – every part of it – and finding a way to tell it is how he’ll wrest some control over his life. And what a story it is: acute, impassioned, heartbreakingly evocative, told by a narrator who’s a product of multiple failed systems, yes, but also of a deep rural landscape with its own sustaining traditions.” — The Guardian
“An epic…brimming with vitality and outrage….the rare 560-page book you wish would never end.” — People "Book of the Week"!
"...[a] teeming and masterly social realist epic....The author makes every sentence count and tackles bulky social issues, all while delivering a spectacular story." — PW's Best Books of 2022