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The Hollow Ground

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  363 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Set amongst the deadly coal mine fires of 1960s Pennsylvania, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut that will "grab you by the brisket and not let go." (Gary Shteyngart)

"We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."

The underground
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Diane S.
3.5 A very strong debut set in the 1960's in Pennsylvania coal country.
Brigid Hawley is eleven yrs old, a girl that has had to grow up fast, due to the impoverished circumstances of her parents and their dysfunctional lives. When the underground fires consume her aunt's house where her family was living they move into the house of her grandmother and grandfather. Her mother does not get along with the grandmother and her father is far from the family favorite. It is here that things rapidly disi
Mocha Girl
Set in the 1960s Pennsylvania coal-mining country, The Hollow Ground focuses on the turbulent adolescent years of Brigid who is born into a wholly dysfunctional Black Irish Catholic family believed to be “cursed” by a priest decades ago during a Molly Maguire incident involving her grandfather.

Brigid struggles with normalcy despite her family’s impoverished state which causes them to move frequently and live in cramped conditions sometimes with equally destitute relatives. It is through her eye
PacaLipstick Gramma
Historically, the book was interesting, but after while it just seemed to drag. I just wanted the author to get on with it.

I had a hard time grasping the concept of "the curse", it just seemed too pre-1960. I would like to believe that we were better educated in that time period. I can't EVER recall my grandparents or even great grandparents regaling stories of supernatural, ghosts, or anything. Maybe they were just too practical?

I also found it hard to believe that Brigid's mother had a revolvi
Set in Pennsylvania amid the 1960s underground mine fires, The Hollow Ground at large is about a family trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Forced to move from there home, the Howley's are trying to make a life for themselves after moving in with a estranged set of grandparents. A so called curse was laid on the Howley's many years ago by a priest, a curse that they still believe follows them around.

Decades old family secrets come up in this novel, I only wish they had been a little mo
Lisa Driscoll
The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett is a narrative told from the perspective of a young pre-teen girl living in the midst of devastating Pennsylvania coal mine fires. The novel is inspired by real events in the the 1960’s, and interestingly, some of those same fires still burn today.
This novel is a fictional piece but gives the reader a real appreciation of history and what the miners, their families, and the towns experienced.

Our main character is Brigid who is, for her time, a precocious
Meg - A Bookish Affair
The historical events in "The Hollow Ground" are centered on the burning of towns like Centralia, Pennsylvania, which started in the 1960s due to coal under the ground igniting (the reason why this happened is debated). The fires still burn today and Centralia is all but a ghost town. These events reflect the turmoil going on in the Howley family. As the fires drive people out of their homes, the Howley family is falling apart. The historic detail lends a haunting setting for this story of a fam ...more
The Hollow Ground: A Novel
Natalie S. Harnett

What I knew about this book before I read it...

Do you remember reading A Tree Grows In Brooklyn? That's what this book reminded me of...a young girl narrating the story of her poor damaged family as they live and endure a fire burning under their towns.

My thoughts after reading this book...

Just the thought of these underground fires was scary and frightening...but to this family it was a way of life. Brigid's father says...we walk on fire and water
I chose this book because I am not very familiar with the Pennsylvania coal mine fires - the setting of this story is in the early 1960s, when the fires started. The book doesn’t go into the history as much as I would've liked, but that’s okay, it was enough to compliment a great story. The narrator is Brigid, an 11 years old from an impoverished mining family. There is a family curse, bootlegging history, secrets about a murder, ghosts, and personal histories that make the lives of this family ...more
Diana Leigh
THE HOLLOW GROUND is a strong character-driven historical novel that takes readers back to the Pennsylvania coal mine fires in the early 1960s. It's also very much a coming-of-age story for the young protagonist, Brigid Howley. What can I say about Brigid, except that she was a survivor! She told it like it was, her life as the daughter of a loving yet irresponsible alcoholic father, and a distant mother with major abandonment issues. They were refugees of a sort, forced to move from place to pl ...more
We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say.

This novel grabbed me with that first line and didn't let go. I knew that there were coal mine fires that burned for decades, but I never knew how it effected the families living around, and worse, over those fires. I didn't know that people continued to live in unbelievable conditions because they had few options.

This is a dark tale. It is not especially violent or cruel, but darkness prevails. The family thinks it is cursed, but most of the charact
Alysa H.
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I've seen that this has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, and the comparison is apt in that both novels feature young girls dealing with very adult issues. This is also an example of a book with a young narrator that's not being marketed as YA (though if TKaM were published today, it probably would be; and of course it is frequently read in junior high school English classes).

The "hollow ground" of the title refers both to the physical --
Judy Collins
A powerful and extraordinary debut novel! THE HOLLOW GROUND dives into total dysfunction of The Howleys, a wounded family of three generations, with special focus on one special adolescent girl, Brigid, taking upon herself-- burdens of her immediate family, and those of generations past. As the characters come alive---more than the “fires of the community” are out of control; the lives of this family are raging!

THE HOLLOW GROUND is inspired by real-life events in Centralia and Carbondale, Penns
"The Hollow Ground" is unremittingly dark, but the eleven-year-old narrator tells her story with unremitting hope. Perhaps it's the naive hope of a child, but the book manages to stay out of the abyss. Adrian and her family live in a Pennsylvania mining town that is being gnawed at by fires in the coal mine that it sits upon. The fires are both geographical and emotional as the family faces housing peril, a powerful foil for its truly mythical dysfunction. It's a quick read, and it has seared it ...more
Anthony Breznican
Simultaneously ethereal and gritty, this is a novel about the Howley family as seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Brigid, who is watching her family -- and her hometown -- be slowly consumed by the underground coal mine fire that is devouring their community. According to family legend, their perpetual misfortune is due to a curse, but people have always made up mythology to explain trues they can't (or won't) fathom. Harnett sprinkles her blue-collar yarn with moments of youthful daring, a mu ...more
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I was gifted a copy of “The Hollow Ground” via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. That in no way changes my opinion of this book or author.

“The Hollow Ground” is a very simple, heart-warming, emotional story based around Brigid and her family. They live in Pennsylvania, and are not only escaping the coal burning underneath the town and destroying homes; but what they believe to be a family curse. They blame the family curse on misfortune, but learn that only you can control how you let
Vicki Hasson
I just finished "The Hollow Ground" and I just LOVED it. Just finished it & I'm already having "withdrawals"! It was so beautifully written,
very easy to read & follow (I hate to read a book that has some "symbolism" that you must decipher, read into,etc. I read for pure entertainment and enjoyment, not for some 'philosophical' hidden meaning, etc.). I felt every word, every feeling that the characters had, every emotion. I hated them, loved them, worried about them, as though they belo
“We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at our feet.

Where the hollowed out ground didn’t burn, it collapsed or sank. Here is what’s known as the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania, fed by the largest vein of anthracite coal in the world. That coal was blasted, hauled, breathed, and swallowed by our daddie’s daddies and by theirs before them. And when those mines sh
Rose Mary Achey

No one knows exactly how it started, but a coal vein has been burning under the Pennsylvania mining town of Centralia since 1961. Some trace it back to careless trash incineration in an open pit mine igniting a coal vein. The fire crawled, insidiously, along coal-rich deposits far from the miner's pick, venting hot and poisonous gases up into town, through the basements of homes and businesses.

The Hollow Ground is a coming of age novel set in this area during the 60’s. The story opens with Brigi
This is a quite strong debut novel set in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania during the 1960s. Brigid Howley’s young life has been defined by the curse set upon her Irish-immigrant family one hundred years ago. With coal fires raging beneath the earth, the government attempts to quell the fires. This makes for a powerful backdrop in this coming-of-age story as Brigid learns more about the family secrets and problems caused by actions in the past. The book rings with authenticity and it is ob ...more
Home. Such a warm, wonderful feeling that word excites within all of us.

At the beginning of this novel, Brigid and her family prepare to leave their home to go live with her father's parents. A coal mining accident has left Brigid's father, Adrian, disabled and unemployed. There is tangible friction between Brigid's mother, Dolores, and her in-laws.

Living in a 3-generation household is never easy, and this setup is downright dysfunctional. Interwoven with the present circumstances are a histor
It's 1961, and after a family tragedy rocks her life, Brigid Howley, along with her mother, father, and little brother find themselves living with her strong-willed grandmother and sick grandfather. What follows this move, in Natalie S. Harnett's debut novel, The Hollow Ground, is a coming-of-age story set in the Anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Through a grisly discovery, young Brigid must not only come to terms with her fragile homelife, but her family's past as well.

What first attracted me
The Hollow Ground follows Brigid, an Irish coal miner’s daughter who is running from a hundred year old curse. In the debut novel, the environmental catastrophe of underground mine fires in Pennsylvania coal country mirror the devastation in Brigid’s dysfunctional family. When the ground caves beneath the Howleys and swallows up their favorite auntie and whatever small amount of stability they had left, Brigid, her brother, mother, and disabled father are forced to return to live with her patern ...more
Steph Post
One of my favorite books of the year!
What a sad, depressing story with wholly unlikable characters. Set among the coal fires in NE Pennsylvania in the 1960s, we follow a young girl coming of age, discovering the her parents flaws and secrets. If nothing else, the reader should be thankful that they are not Brigid. Even with all that, I rated it 3 stars simply because the author painted a very vivid, if disturbing, picture.
It took me a while to get into this book, mostly because the secrets that the characters had weren't even hinted at until I was nearly half way through it. I think that if the author had given the reader a clue about what was going on a little earlier, I would have finished the book a lo faster than I did.
The Hollow Ground is a book about coal mining towns in Pennsylvania during the 1960's. The mines are on fire, people are being forced to leave their homes and it's about the only situation I ca
Ryan Nims
Not bad for a debut novel. the first half of the book was way too depressing, and the family just too dysfunctional. In the second half the family dynamic started to make sense and the characters--though not always likable--became a bit more real for me.

There is an element of a mystery story here; I wish the novel focused more on the mystery than the family problems. Though at the end I felt it all came together in a satisfying way.
Casee Marie
Set against the devastating coal mine fires of 1960s Pennsylvania, Natalie S. Harnett’s The Hollow Ground tells the story of eleven year-old Brigid Howley and her family, a long generation of coal miners, as they wrestle with secrets of the past and fight against nature to salvage the lives they’ve always known. It’s an astonishingly vivid portrait of desperation and the lingering threads of hope when even the ground beneath one’s feet can’t be trusted. Through Brigid’s clever and openly honest ...more
Ralph White
The Hollow Ground
By Natalie Harnett
Review by Ralph White
The Columbia Fiction Foundry

You’re going to be seeing a lot more of Natalie Harnett. With The Hollow Ground she has already established herself as one of America’s great young writers. Contemporary fiction often features what the industry calls “high concept.” In addition to the writer’s other creative duties (exotic settings, larger than life characters, high stakes, etc) is writing something that matters. Ms. Harnett does everything well
In May 1962, in Centralia, PA five members of the volunteer fire company were hired to clean up the town landfill located in an abandoned strip mine pit. The firefighters, as they had in the past, set the dump on fire and let it burn for some time. Unlike previous years, however, the fire was not extinguished correctly. The fire remained burning underground and spread through a hole into the abandoned Anthracite coal mines beneath Centralia. Attempts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, and ...more
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THE HOLLOW GROUND is a Goodreads Book Group Worthy Title. An Amazon & Audible Best Seller. A LIBRARY JOURNAL's "Debuts with Buzz" Selection; a SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE's '5 Books to Read This Month'; and a NYC Irish Arts Center 2015 Book Day Pick. PROVIDENCE JOURNAL writes, "Hands down the best novel of 2014." Natalie holds an MFA from Columbia. She's been awarded an Edward Albee Fellowship, a Summe ...more
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