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Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance
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Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  698 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Click here to view the Hatfield and McCoy Family Tree

America's most notorious family feud began in 1865 with the murder of a Harmon McCoy, a Union soldier, bya Confederate Hatfield relative.But Southern grudges run long and deep. More than a decade later tempers flared over stolen hogs. This accusation triggered years of bloody violence and retribution that led to a tragic...more
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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I would give this zero stars if I could. I admit that it strikes me as a difficult task to turn the meagerly documented story of the Hatfields and McCoys into a cohesive narrative. And given the dozens of conflicting oral histories, tangled genealogies, and convoluted chronologies, and having only hearsay and speculation to go on, it would be difficult to put together a cogent thesis from any such account. But it is also difficult to imagine someone failing so completely and miserably as the aut...more
Really a 3.5, but I rounded up.

I watched History Channel's Hatfields and McCoys mostly because I love Westerns (okay, it was an Eastern, but men with guns on horses, c'mon. Costner is always entertaining if you give him a horse and gun). Much to my surprise, I actually liked it ( Costner aside, it was the History channel). The writing was good, and so was:

among others (there was actually more naked male flesh than female in this movie).

I didn't know much about the feud. I could tell that the His...more
Denise Schauerman
I feel as though giving this book one star is generous. I cannot begin to describe how disappointed I was in this book. I had such high hopes since it is such an interesting subject matter but it failed to deliver.

The first part of the book deals with the actual history of the feud and describes those involved as well as the events. I found it very difficult to keep track of those involved especially since so many of them had the same or similar names. There is supposedly a family tree on the in...more
The information in this book is really fascinating, but I'm not the hugest fan of the author's writing style. She keeps using the phrase "no doubt" about assertions she's made that I definitely have some doubt about (i.e. when describing the Hatfields' New Year's massacre on the McCoys: "They ran back to their horses, one of which bolted, no doubt appalled by the behavior of its owner."—really, lady?? I'd say no doubt scared shitless by all the gunfire. Or, when describing how some Hatfields had...more
I wanted to give this book four stars, but I felt some of the information added at the end was superfluous. After covering the feud, the author discusses some other topics. I enjoyed the chapter on other feuds and wanted more of that. Her discussion of possible reasons for the feud was also superb, and her look at Appalachian culture was interesting. Some of the material on her own genealogy was relevant, but some seemed to drag on a bit, and the author seemed to repeat herself at times.

You will need a genealogical chart to follow the events in this book. The lives of the infamous Hatfields of West Virginia and McCoys of Eastern Kentucky are intricately intertwined. Alther not only reports the bloody fued events as accurately as she can - she also analyzes the effect their publicity has had on the people of Appalachia. Known thereafter as ignorant hillbillies (arguably accurate in many cases), the stereotype stayed with the mountain people from the post civil war years up until...more
My husband's family descended from James McCoy. I have long been interested in the Hatfield-McCoy feud because my daughter is a McCoy. This book provided valuable information served up with great storytelling and a dash of humor. The inclusion of information about other feuds during the same period was interesting as were the chapters on the aftermath and the selling of the story by Hollywood. I would suggest this book to anyone who is interested in Appalachia or the period directly following th...more
I remember a kid in grade school named David McCoy who told me all about how his family came from the McCoys of the Hatfield and McCoy feud. I had no idea what he was talking about, I'm sure, but enough of his playground description stuck with me that I've always been vaguely curious about the subject. I'm from Northeastern Ohio rather than Appalachian Kentucky or West Virginia, but there's little rhyme or reason to what subjects interest me when I'm looking for a book, and specialized history b...more
Pamela Aidan
After seeing the new made-for-TV movie about the legendary feud, I was eager to learn more about it. The first half of Ms Alther's book was interesting, but as even she admits, the stories that accompany every incident in the long years of the feud are many and varied. The many accounts finally gets so twisted and turned around that even the hope of a coherent time-line must be abandoned. I can't help but think that a better arrangement of the varied accounts might have assisted the reader--a ch...more
Dennis Goshorn
Having watched the series on the History Channel, I was wanting to learn more. I downloaded the sample of this book and was hooked. Unfortunately, the beginning of the book is much better than the remainder.

The book starts strong and there is a lot of good information and it appears to be well researched. The book begins to disintegrate towards and middle and end. Granted, putting together a "history" based on so much conflicting oral stories had to be difficult and it appears that Ms. Alther w...more
Jeff Jellets

A great book! Just stop reading after Chapter 12 . . .

Author Lisa Alther sifts through often contradictory folklore to give us as close to an accurate account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud as is ever likely to be written. The task is not easy. Documentation regarding the origins and events of the feud are hard to come by and, of what is available, much is besmirched by bias – depending upon whether the author of the material was more inclined toward the Hatfield or the McCoy side of things (or, j...more
Deirdre Chatham
While I enjoyed the back stories of Abner Vance and the border wars during the War Between the States and England and Scotland, as well as the presentation of the borderland folkways, I felt as if the author's true purpose was in her attempt to lay her fear of the Cumberlands with her ancestry. Ms. Alther's idea that you "inherit the psychic fallout from traumas endured during their lifetimes," has certainly provided lively discussion around our table. I am re-examining the competitive spirit of...more
Carol Coston
i've been trying to make a decision about whether I would recommend this book. interesting. but short on the titled subject, namely, the Hatfields and the McCoys. only 50% of the book actually discussed the history of and the actual feuding. well, i should be fair, another 10% (perhaps) discussed genealogical, historical, psychological, sociological, and geographical factors that may have influenced the development of this particular feud (and other feuding in the area). sometimes i felt as thou...more
Interesting topic but the book is weakly constructed -- it reads more like a college term paper than a historical book. Odd mix of the author's personal views and family connection to the McCoys, rehashing of the Hatfield-McCoy feud chronology, followed by analysis of other Appalachian feuds. I really don't like purported history books full of footnotes with snarky editorial comments, but you will find several of those here.
Catherine Chesebro
I was so interested in this saga of Americana but I am overwhelmed by so many family members and the writing does not give the impact of an epic story. (Reading on Kindle so i don't know if there are diagrams, etc) I made a family tree for both families so I could remember who was with whom. Story is insteresting but not enough to keep my attention for more than 20 pages at a time, so I am reading it bit by bit.
Not only does Lisa Alther cover the events of the feud, but she also explores the possible causes such as the lack of schools and a possible genetic disease found on the McCoy side. The book is easy to read and very informative. Alther includes all accounts from the sources she gathered and leaves it up to the reader to decide for themselves what they believed happened during the feud.
Interesting read, although nobody will really know the truth. Both sides told radically different stories for each feud event. The only thing that could be agreed upon was the body count. The prevailing attitude was "an eye for an eye", and the law basically looked the other way. I did appreciate the analysis of the culture and the impact of current events at the time of the feuds.
Shirley Brown
I've wanted to know more about the Hadfield's and the McCoy's. This book enlightened me on that senseless feud. What a waste of lives, and a sad point in the civilization of our country. I don't think the Civil War was the cause of the Feud, but it gave those involved a place to learn how to kill without feeling and they carried on from there, no matter the reasons, and without the least provacations. So sad for the innocent!! A great read, and the author has a great sense of humor that made rea...more
Growing up you always heard about these two families and all of their problems. After watching the tv movie that they had a while back I was more curious about what details were left out, if any. I always felt like the stories were one sided. While reading this book I felt like I needed both of their family trees in front of me. It was too much going back and forth with names, especially once you factor in how many times the family married their "enemy". I do have to commend the author on not si...more
I decided to read a book on the Hatfields and McCoys after visiting Iaeger WV on a mission trip. Reading Lisa Alther's book helped me to understand how the area was shaped over many decades. The area we visited had tall, converging mountains with only narrow valleys between. Coal mining is evident, but many of the mines have closed over the years, and the area is very depressed. Some of the people we encountered seemed wary of us, since we were outsiders.

In Lisa's book, the families were large,...more
Lisa Nocita
Blood Feud<\i> tells the story of the epic feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys in the mountains between Kentucky and West Virginia. The author has done extensive research to pull together a somewhat narrative tale that attempts to unravel and account for the multitude of reasons and misunderstandings that fueled the feud for decades. I say somewhat because the narrative approach is not all together successful. It is occasionally disjointed and out of sequence. Also, the author begins...more
Amy Bunn
As another reviewer asked, "Can you dislike a book, and yet hold the author blameless?" The Hatfield and McCoy feud is a tricky bit of subject matter. Not only did it happen over a hundred years ago, in a region of the United States where record-keeping was spotty at best, but it's also a confusing story to relate. As the author herself notes, "Couples typically named their first son after his paternal grandfather, and they often named later sons after favorite brothers or uncles or maternal gra...more
I read this book for two reasons: (1) I wanted to see if the writer got the history right; and (2) I liked how Lisa Alther drew upon research and her own imaginative gifts to write about her family history in Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree. Blood Feud was satisfying on both counts.

In terms of the history, the Hatfields and McCoys feud was not about a stolen pig or a Romeo and Juliet romance between the families. It's about bad blood between two families who were on opposite sides during t...more
While Alther researched an interesting topic, the way it was presented in the book was erratic, with some sections dragging and some sections feeling very rushed and overcrowded. Even with the helpful family tree attached, I was still very confused about who was who and who did what to whom, which may not have been Alther's fault. The most interesting section of the book I found was the section where Alther talked about the sociological/psychological underpinnings present in the Appalachians jus...more
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars when I finished, but I didn't arrive at that decision until I was about two-thirds through reading it. About halfway in, I had pretty much decided it might be worth only a 2 star review. The main problem I had early on is the fact that the cast of characters in the Hatfield-McCoy feud was too huge and too complicated. This was not the fault of the author, a McCoy descendant, because she was dealt the hand history gave her. Both families with countless cousins an...more
The title and description of Alther's book portray a relation of the events surrounding the Hatfield/McCoy feud in Tug Fork Valley, which only takes up about 60% of the book in reality. I had never heard the entire story of the feud laid out piece-by-piece, so I really enjoyed reading about the topic more thoroughly. Alther does a good job putting the events into a timeline that we can understand and referring back to that timeline when she introduces a lesser known character in the book. She al...more
The book covers the central themes of what precipitated the feud between the Hatfields & McCoys along with related topics of other feuds and cultural issues in the Appalachian areas of West Virginia and Kentucky. Lisa Alther a distant descendant of some that participated in the feud.

My interest in this topic stemmed from the recent History Channel series on the feud which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt was the best TV made history drama I had ever seen. Althers' book fairly closely parallels...more
Nicole Maxim
The author’s purpose behind this book was to examine what happened during this feud, which was one of the largest feuds in American History, but also an examination of feud culture. The author chose to write about this subject as an exploration of what she considers a dual society in Tennessee and also the Tug Fork Region. This dual society is composed of the mountain south otherwise known as the “hillbilly” and the plantation south, which is viewed as mainly industrial areas with more social pr...more
Lori Fink
Well, where to begin. First of all, this is the first book that I have read about the Hatfield/McCoy feud, so I don't know how it compares to other histories of this famous feud. I also did not watch the History Channel miniseries, mostly because I cannot stand Kevin Costner, so I started this book almost completely ignorant of factual information.

I enjoyed the first part of the book, which is mainly an account of the feud pieced together from various writings and oral accounts passed on from de...more
Lisa Alther is an excellent storyteller. This is evidenced by her several successful novels. It is her storytelling ability that makes Blood Feud a pleasure to read. Notably, the subtitle for the book includes the words "Epic Story" as a sign of what the reader should expect. The epic story is just that although it takes less than half the book to tell it. After the conclusion of the story of the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys the book continues to expand upon the feud. There is a sho...more
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