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The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  8,581 ratings  ·  1,488 reviews
After seeing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, fourteen-year-old Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin's grandfather. In this peeled-paint coal town deep in Appalachia, Kevin quickly falls in with a half-wild hollow kid named Buzzy Fink who schools him in the mysteries and magnificence of the woods. The events ...more
Hardcover, 466 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  8,581 ratings  ·  1,488 reviews

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Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: free-from-work
so, i just loved this book.

it's an incredibly strong debut, and i want this guy to quit his job at his venture capital firm (!!!???) and focus full-time on writing, because he is a natural born storyteller, and this book was fantastic, and i don't even know why!

because there's not a lot that is "new" here. i've read gritty coming-of-age novels before. i've read about dysfunctional families who have experienced tragedy. i've read about the way small communities huddle together and share a history
Now we both were silent, staring into the fire at the dancing light of the single flame and at the flame's reflection on the sweating walls; listening to the slow drip of water somewhere down in the cave and the irregular popping of dying coals; fresh friends from completely different worlds faced with the hard shapings of truth and deceit, of right and wrong, and of the equivalent damage when high expectations and low expectations are devastatingly unmet....

A beautiful, tender and sad coming of
Always Pouting
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kevin and his mom move to Kentucky to spend the summer with his grandfather after his little brother dies in an accident. Kevin's mother can't cope and his father takes his anger out on everyone for what happened, blaming Kevin. During his stay in Kentucky, Kevin becomes friends with a local boy named Buzzy Fink and is taken under his grandfathers wing. Over the summer some local tensions come to an apex with Buzzy witnessing a hate crime that ends up putting Kevin, Buzzy, and Kevin's grandfathe ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carol by: Susan W.
OH. MY. GOSH. Don't think I'll ever be able to erase the horrific description of Joshua's tragic death from my mind. (no spoiler here)........And

I want to begin by stating I absolutely love Pops and Kevin and Buzzy and Rudy Rae.....these wonderfully well-drawn characters who fill the pages of this touching coming-of-age story.

It's 1985 in the eastern Kentucky Appalachia during a time of land destruction, and fourteen year old Kevin is burdened with the blame and guilt of his little brother's dea

Diane S ☔
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
After the horrible death of his younger brother, 14 year old Kevin and his mother come to a small mining town in Kentucky, within the Appalachian mountains. His mother is nearly catatonic with grief and it is hoped that returning to her Father's house will help heal her.

Kevin quickly makes friend with another boy, Buzz who lives in one of the hollows, and their days are spent hanging in a tree house, tromping through the woods and camping in a cave said to be haunted. Though everything is though
Sep 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, true-grit

I don’t know what to say about this book.

According to the little author blurb on the ARC he runs a software company and started this book fifteen years ago.

That’s a long time to be working on a book. And one might argue that genius percolates slowly but I think there is a tendency sometimes to romanticize a long process of writing and put a fetish on the tortured process that lead to the creation of the book rather than on the work itself (which makes me think of The Tunnel, which in my s
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fourteen-year-old Kevin and his mother are sent to spend the summer with a beloved grandfather in eastern Kentucky. Kevin's mom is nearly catatonic, traumatized by the death of her younger son. His dad frequently hints that Kevin is in some way responsible for the tragic accident. Luckily, he heads back to Indiana, leaving Kevin to have, if not the greatest, certainly the most unforgettable, summer of his life.

He and his new pal, Buzzy, will indulge in mud baths, hang out in tree houses, explore
Nov 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most atmospheric novels I have read. I felt like I was walking every step with these boys. The characters were very well developed... every thought and emotion felt authentic. My only complaint is that I found myself skimming through several parts starting about 3/4 of the way through. It just seemed too drawn out for me with too many unnecessary details. The first half was really really good... second half not so much. Still a very strong debut and I look forward to reading ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“Evil doesn’t have to be loud, son. In fact, it reserves that for the merely boorish. Evil is quiet, stealthy – it sneaks up on you, smiles, and pats you on the back while pissing down your leg.”

Let me tell you the tale of how this ended up on my TBR. It was a cold and snowy New Year’s and the family was all in the reading room to make as much noise as possible in order to distract me from my ‘puter watch me churn out one of my
Cathrine ☯️
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites

I love books centered in Appalachia + I’m a tree hugger = Biased spin starts here.

I love when an author can tell a great fictional story that also draws the reader to a real life issue that is close to his heart and mine; writing and reading with a cause if you will. Ron Rash and Barbara Kingsolver are very good at this. Now I can add Christopher Scotton and his debut novel to that list. A debut? Wow!

A few years back I had looked up images of mountaintop removal after seeing a film narrated
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is a lovely blend of several things: a boy's coming of age, a family in crisis over a child's death, a small town's struggle to survive, a fight against prejudice, and a wilderness adventure. The author was juggling a lot and I think he pulled it off well.

Our narrator is 14-year-old Kevin, who moves with his mom back to her hometown in Appalachia. His mother is mad with grief after losing her 3-year-old son in a terrible accident. Kevin's grandfather tries to care for them, and Kevin
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Cathrine ☯️
“I guess I learned that even though most people are good, they can be talked into doing bad things by one or two jerks...And I guess, people sometimes need someone who can stand up and remind them that they are good people and they know what's right.”

4.5 stars

The prose in this book created a song in my heart like the tunes that have been sung throughout the Appalachian Mountains for the last few centuries. Author Christopher Scotton has created a beautifully-written novel which I couldn't help b
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There has been a lot of buzz building around the debut novel of Christopher Scotton titled, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. The publisher has announced a print run of 100,000 —- unheard of for a first novel —- and many of the early reviews have been gushing. I picked up an ARC a few weeks ago, and trust me -- the hype is justified.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read in many years. The prose is breathtaking at times and the imagery transports yo
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book has received a great deal of pre-release accolades – all well deserved. I suspect, however, the spell it cast over me is a bit different than the one cast for others, mainly due to my own geography and relationship to mining (not in Kentucky and not coal mining, but in southern Arizona where copper mining “is king” as was quoted recently in our local paper over a mining ‘victory’ that will scrape away sacred Native American land).

This debut is a fabulous coming-of-age story about 14-ye
Bam cooks the books ;-)
I found this book in the library of our cruise ship! I had been meaning to read it since it was first published and knew the timing was perfect since there would be several long days of cruising at sea.

It is just the kind of book that I love: a coming of age story set in the hills of Kentucky, with a wise old grandfather, and plenty of heart-breaking problems and a bit of mystery and danger to keep the plot moving forward steadily.

Kevin Gillooly and his mother leave their home in Indiana to sp
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
Good, if slightly overlong, coming-of-age tale set in a coal-mining town in Kentucky. Hard to put down - the author does a great job with creating atmosphere and helping you to see the beauty of the Appalachian mountains, as well as the horror of what modern coal mining does to those mountains.

A 3.5 for me. The story dragged a little at the end and some of the characters were a bit too archetypical for me, but rounding up for a good story well told.
Judy D Collins
Coming in Paperback 1/5/2016!

Top 50 Books of 2015"Best Coming -of-Age Debut."

THE SECRET WISDOM OF THE EARTH by talented Christopher Scotton, is a highly recommended compelling, multi-layered coming-of-age epic debut, crossing many genres.

A deeply-moving story, with a powerful voice of adult Kevin, main protagonist, telling his story--with a "heart of gold", and as big as the mountains; matched perfectly by audio narrator, Robert Petkoff, delivering an award-winning performance! This southe
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A horrible accident at home sends this fourteen year old boy and his mother to her father's home in a small mining town in Appalachia. In this debut novel, the author brings you into the heart and soul of mountain living. You feel like you know every character. I thought this was very well written and would recommend it to anybody. Loved it. ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reviews
For the first time, I feel like a jerk for giving something three stars as opposed to four, because at its heart “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” is a solid four-star novel. There are some plot flaws that made me feel the need to dock a star, and they may not bother others, so please research other reviews along with mine to determine if this novel is right for you.

“The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” is a coming-of-age tale in the slice-of-life tradition. It meanders through the beautiful world of
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I had the delight of seeing Mr. Scotton read from his novel at a publisher's breakfast and then also have dinner with him later on in the same conference. As an author, he is as down to earth as the characters he has crafted in his debut novel. Knowing that the inspiration behind this novel is based on a true life event and that it took Mr. Scotton 15 years to complete the manuscript had me reading the story through a different lens than normal -- one that enhanced the experience.

At its simples
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was about as real as a story can get. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth featured small town prejudices, old family rules, tragedy, and the losing/finding of oneself. This book was very engrossing and encompassed every thing I love about a good book.

I have to admit that the beginning started kind of slow. Written by a male, the writing reflects a bit of the technical aspects of a boy in his youth. I kept reading because I enjoyed the slow build up. I really felt like I got to know the chara
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. I know there has been a lot of buzz about this book so I feel like I am going out on a limb here to say that I did not love this book - I really just sort of liked it - barely. It really pains me that this book was not as great as I expected because it has not only received the aforementioned buzz, it is Parnassus' Books First Edition pick for January and those who know me know how much I love Ann Patchett and I usually love her picks.

Nevertheless, I found the plot to be extremely fr
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a 3.5 star read. The book almost read like two separate stories. One story being a coming to age and the other a camping adventure gone bad. By the end I had lost some interest in the plot. Not a bad debut but not one I just absolutely loved. However, I did love some of the characters.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5, rounded up.

Coming of age stories tend to be a flop for me. They tend to leave me craving more depth, more development, more excitement - I just need more. What this book gave me was "the more" that's usually missing. There was never a moment where I thought to myself - "Man, I really wish this part was different." There is nothing I would change about this story.

The character and setting development were done INSANELY well. I felt like I knew these characters really well, almost like I wa
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
**I won an uncorrected proof of this novel as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program.**

Wow. Wow. Wow. I am absolutely amazed at the caliber of this novel. The writing was absolutely brilliant. The main character and narrator of the story, Kevin, moves to Kentucky for the summer and experiences so much in that short period of time. The characters were all complex and well-thought-out. The story was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The words on the pages seemed all
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Perfection! Scotton's illustrative descriptions are some of the best I have ever read. Throughout the book I thought, “How did he come up with that? So creative.”

Don't skip over the chapter titles - they are clever and some are quite thought provoking. I dog eared a few in particular, “The Price of Future Memories,” “The Paradox of Penning Cats,” and “In the Weave of Time and Being.”

It’s used as a title but I especially like how the phrase, “The equivalent damage when high expectations and low e
RoseMary Achey
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Novels set in Appalachia have long intrigued me-as most of you know, I am a huge fan of Ron Rash. I picked up The Secret Wisdom of the Earth as it was set in a rural community of Appalachia Kentucky.

While Rash's Appalachian material always feels real, author Christopher Scotton's felt arbitrary and forced. While some narrative flowed, much of it felt awkward, somewhat like an individual speaking a foreign language.

The story itself was engaging and enough happens to keep the reader turning th
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
First sentence: The Appalachian Mountains rise a darker blue on the washed horizon if you're driving east from Indiana in the morning.

Favorite quote: Just knowing I wasn't alone - knowing that I was guarded by something inexplicable and ecumenical - gave me energy and courage I had never felt before.

All I can say is WOW! This book takes your breath away with the lyrical gorgeous writing. This man can tell a story and make you think you are there living it with everyone. This is a story for men a
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
My rating for this book is more of an emotional response than my normal dissection, which is probably very rare for me. It's just when I think about this book, I was really drawn in and I grew to love the characters. I felt vested in their futures. They were so well drawn emotionally, which I loved.

I also liked the story itself. There were some creative turns that had me saying, "Nice." This was an endearing coming of age story of two teenage boys trying to navigate life in a rural mining town.
Peggy Hallett
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Truly an American classic. I could see this becoming part of the high school curriculum for years, along side To Kill a Mockingbird and Huck Finn. This was a beautifully woven story of culture, progress, values, and more than anything, change in our world - both the physical world of the Appalachian mountains, and the emotional change of growing up and understanding your community. It should be passed on to Tommy Lee Jones so he could help develop it into a film...he could be Pops, and John Good ...more
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I grew up about 30 miles outside of Washington, D.C. in what was then undeveloped country. It was a place of cornfields and tree houses, dammed-up creeks and secret swimming holes. In the summers, my brothers and I would dash out around 8:00 am for wherever and return just in time for dinner in the evening. It was a magical place to be a kid and I wanted to recapture that wonder of discovery as fo ...more

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