Kings of Coweetsee

Regal House. Jul. 2024. 282p. ISBN 9781646034543. pap. $19.95. F
Birdie runs the historic society in the town of Coweetsee, somewhere in the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals claim that nothing ever happens there, and they seem proud of it. However, out-of-town elites have started buying land and building houses in Coweetsee, making change inevitable. Birdie’s ex-husband, Roy, is running for sheriff in the upcoming election. Buying votes used to be the way to win, but Roy is unwilling to use that tactic, as the former sheriff was jailed for election tampering. Charlie Clyde is another troubled local. As a teen he purposely ran over someone, just to see how it felt. When the local Black church burned to the ground with the pastor inside, Charlie went to jail even as he protested his innocence. Now he is back, looting the countryside of its chestnut barn boards and anything else he can sell. Elections have consequences, and after Coweetsee’s, the locals begin to orchestrate change on their own terms.
VERDICT Readers will appreciate the timely relevance of this story and the way Neal (Appalachian Book of the Dead) captures the struggle between tradition and change and offers a poignant picture of poverty, abuse, crime, and punishment.
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