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The Hollow Ground

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  626 Ratings  ·  143 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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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Set in the 1960's rural Pennsylvania. This story is focused on the viewpoint of eleven year old Brigid.
Her story starts off as her family lives with her aunt after her dad had been hurt in a mining accident years ago and has had a tough time with working. Jobs seem against his drinking and gambling so it's easier for him to just let his wife do the working for the family.

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The whole area is in a coal mining zone and fires have erupted underground.
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Her aunt is killing by the fires and the family
I picked up this book from Audible purely because of the setting and the fact that I'm somewhat fascinated by Centralia, Pa, which is what I thought it was based on. It's creepy, and I love the whole "ghost town" aspect of it, and the fact that it's been the basis for horror settings like Silent Hill just makes me even more fascinated by it. But I've never been there. I've lived in the Anthracite Coal region of Pennsylvania since 2004, and have visited some of the historical sites of that indust ...more
Diane S ⛄
May 15, 2014 Diane S ⛄ rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2014 Mocha Girl rated it really liked it
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
Alysa H.
May 11, 2014 Alysa H. rated it it was amazing
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 --
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
May 29, 2014 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Jun 24, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
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
Jun 10, 2014 Patty rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Driscoll
May 08, 2014 Lisa Driscoll rated it it was ok
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
Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas
Mar 29, 2015 Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas rated it really liked it
Reader Beware: This engaging story will pull and twist your emotions: anger, frustration, heart-wrenching grief, and at some points relief. Brigid, the narrator, is the voice of reason throughout this tale of a dysfunctional family’s journey to some kind of normality and peace. One general theme in the story comes when Harnett writes, “I had the awful feeling that for the rest of our lives home was something we’d always be wanting,” and the reader understands that longing. It’s that search for o ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Jul 28, 2014 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2015 Tonya rated it it was amazing
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 mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged gran
Leah Angstman
Jul 14, 2015 Leah Angstman rated it liked it
This is a lovely book, although a heartbreaking story. What I loved most about it is that it is a story of over-mined Appalachian coal mines, left to roil and burn beneath the earth when the coal boom ends. This is not a story we've heard about very often, so in that way, it is original and educational. I definitely learned more about the area, its inhabitants, and its history of mining from reading the book. I'm not the biggest fan of "child narration," however, and this is told from the perspe ...more
Diana Leigh
Oct 29, 2014 Diana Leigh rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 03, 2014 Deb rated it really liked it
The Hollow Ground is a historical novel that takes place in Pennsylvania in the 60’s, in small coal-mining towns that are being ravaged by underground coal mine fires. Brigid Howley is eleven years old and growing up amidst the turbulence of miners who are unable to work and people losing their homes and their lives to these fires.

This is very much a coming of age novel in the traditional sense, with a fascinating historical backdrop. It put me in mind of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, in that it’s r
Jul 05, 2014 Maryellen rated it it was amazing
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
May 12, 2014 Victoria rated it really liked it
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
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
Aug 22, 2014 Elaine rated it it was amazing
"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
Aug 12, 2015 Anthony Breznican rated it it was amazing
This ethereal and gritty novel examines the Howley family through the eyes of 11-year-old Brigid, who is watching her parents -- and her hometown -- be slowly devoured by the underground coal mine fire that smolders like hellfire beneath their feet. According to family legend, the Howleys perpetual misfortune is due to a curse, but people have always made up mythology to explain truths they can't (or won't) fathom. Harnett sprinkles her blue-collar drama with moments of youthful daring, a murder ...more
Jun 16, 2015 Peggy rated it really liked it
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
I won a copy of this book through the goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

The book is fairly slow moving at first in terms of action, but in it's place the author has put a lot of effort into character development & in being very descriptive of the physical setting of the novel. Eventually the reader discovers that family secrets abound in this novel, as well as a supposed "family curse".

The book explores topics that can lead to much discussion for book clubs or even in the
May 08, 2015 Stacey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
This was one of the stories that I'd felt like I'd read before - coming of age tale of a young girl in the 60's. Other than the setting against the coal fires in Pennsylvania in the 60's, the struggles and themes seemed like a lot of the same already published. I would have liked to learn more about the coal fires and the circumstances that surrounded those however the book primarily focuses on the struggles of Brigid as she learns the weaknesses and flaws of her parents, loving them despite tho ...more
Nov 13, 2015 Hilary rated it really liked it
"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."

Inspired by true life events in Carbondale and Centralia, Pennsylvania’s “town on fire,” debut author Natalie S. Harnett has woven a dramatic, atmospheric tale with a distinctive narrative voice and compelling characters, complicated and flawed, that resonate with the reader.

Underground fires in Pennsylvania’s coal
Dark Faerie Tales
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A coming of age story with characters who treat each other terribly, a family curse that can’t be lifted while people can’t come to terms with the terrible things that have happened to them. Slow pacing and a child narrator may turn some people away from this story.

Opening Sentence: We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say.

The Review:

The Hollow Ground is a novel that intrigued me from its synopsis, a family that has been cursed for gene
Aug 30, 2014 Tristan rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2014 Ann-marie rated it really liked it
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
Jul 14, 2014 Vicki Hasson rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2014 Maxine rated it it was amazing
“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
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THE HOLLOW GROUND won the John Gardner Book Award,the Appalachian Book of the Year Award and was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. It's a Goodreads Book Group Worthy Title. A BookBrowse Top 2015 Book Club Recommendation. An Amazon & Audible Best Seller. A LIBRARY JOURNAL's "Debuts with Buzz" Selection; & a SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE's '5 Books to Read This Month' Pick. Natali ...more
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