I had never heard of Pancake (whose name I love) before a friend gave me a copy of this book. It's obvious from perusing other reviews that he has some passionate defenders, and for good reason: this is an astonishing and rewarding collection of stories. The stories are gems of characters moving through their lives, with minimal exposition from the author. However, I confess that I've never spent any significant time in Appalachia, and the dialect can be so thick here that it's virtually impossible to tell what's going on.
But it's easy to sense the primal power of these stories, and also pretty easy to imagine that if Pancake hadn't killed himself at age 26, he may have gone on to produce some work that would send him from the catergory of promising young author to widely-admired regional iconoclast or more. The stories exude a sense of place that is natural and organic, and I don't think it could be reproduced by someone that didn't have rural West Virginia in his or her DNA. In addition, I should mention that both the introduction and epilogues, by friends of the author, are extraordinary--almost as good as the stories themselves.