‘Demon Copperhead’ – Barbara Kingsolver

Finally. I can breathe a sigh of relief now I’ve closed the pages on Demon Copperhead, having taken forever to read it. This was not a book I could say I enjoyed. It was bleak and I had to read it in small steps initially as it was just too depressing to stomach. As I found myself caught up in Demon’s story it became easier to read – I knew this was going to feel grim, but there was a certain charm to the spirit of this character. From start to finish, this was hard work – not in terms of readability or style, but because the subject matter forces you to confront issues that it’s easier to ignore and puts a human face on the suffering so many experience.

This had sat on my shelves since it came out, and I admit that it scared me somewhat. Never having read David Copperfield and being rather taken aback by the hefty page count, I’d built this into an obstacle. A number of friends had read it, and their positive comments kept me going even though I thought about giving up in the early stages.

Our main character, Demon, is a child born to a single drug-addict mother. He’s dragged up through foster placements and finds himself on the periphery of all manner of illegal activities. As he matures, he finds himself to be a gifted footballer and this period of his life offers some stability. But after a terrible accident he finds himself addicted to more than the stereotypical teen drugs. His life is miserable in so many ways, but there are periods of intense joy and moments that show his potential. It was not difficult to feel his frustration at being judged simply because of him being born in a particular place, and I felt a growing anger at the pharmaceutical companies and those who have done their best to spread such vile poison.

As the book drew to its closing stages I felt rather amazed by the resilience Demon shows in dealing with the terrible hand he is dealt by fate. While I usually like a neat ending, I felt the way his story was resolved highlighted just how we each have to accept our role in what happens to us and I firmly came down on the idea that he had a chance of his happy ending.