On the heels of the popular and critical success of her 2007 novel Strange as This Weather Has Been, centered on mountaintop removal and its effect on a single family, Ann Pancake returns to her native West Virginia to tell stories of other folks caught at the same difficult interface.

In “Rockhounds,” nine-year-old Joslyn must divide her sympathies between the old ways of her fossil-hunting grandfather and the scientific approach of his college educated son. It is her Uncle Derek who’s stolen the body of their family dog to take to Charleston to prove the water in their creek has been poisoned. With perfectly poised equanimity,Jos witnesses both her grandfather’s grief and her uncle’s rage at his parents for signing this leasing deal, done in part, simply to be neighborly.

Ann Pancake’s ear for dialect of these mountain people is perfect, her respect that of one who writes from the heart of this world. These are folks caught in the complexities of rural economies where there are no quick fixes to questions surrounding right livelihood. With first-hand knowledge of this world and her exquisite depictitions of its natural history she may put you in mind of Daniel Woodrell.