by Todd Cook
As a new resident to Appalachia, I was excited to read “The Bleeding Door” as it is set in the woods of Kentucky in the 19th century. Todd Cook clearly spent a lot of time studying the culture and integrating it into the story. In fact the author bio explains his passion for, and investigation of, the well known Hatfield-McCoy feud, and acquaintanceship with sources who live in the area in which he sets this historical fiction. “The Bleeding Door” is a retelling of this feud with characters who are fleshed out and made real to the reader.
It took a while to become immersed in the story. The first part of the book develops slowly and jumps among time and characters. I am glad I stuck with it, though, because the author builds upon that early material in order to tell a good, old-fashioned tale. By the time the story ended, I had favorite characters and connected to them and their ultimate fate.
“The Bleeding Door” is a novel which uses the setting as a main character. The geography of Kentucky, the mystery of the dark woods, the isolation of those who reside there are all critical to exactly what happens in the hills. The Civil War was very impactful for those states whose residents could go either way. Face it, a Massachusetts neighborhood was more likely to be all pro-Union while the residents of Kentucky had decisions to make. This resulted in in-fighting and danger for families and vengeance was a popular problem solver.
I hesitate to make this criticism because I never know if what I experience is as a result of the writing, or remnants of my brain injury with which I still deal. Keep that in mind as this may not affect other readers in the same way. Cook worked hard at incorporating the language of the hills from the 1800s. While much of the story is written in our modern English, character dialogue is written in its original Appalachian speak. For example:
“Whar are you fixin’ to take us?” demanded Melvin. “We hait done nothing’!” The captors did not answer.
Melvin grew more frantic. “I hain’t never throwed off on Vance and Phillip! Them two never throwed off on me!”
“I sware t’warn’t me,” interjected Robert. “I was out fightin in Virginny when they was shot, I sware hit!”
From context I could understand the plot, but I did find myself having to read (and sometimes re-read) much more methodically.
“The Bleeding Door” is a nice tale and I will look for the next book Todd Cook pens.
US State Reading Challenge – Kentucky