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A Diamond in the Dust

Review

A Diamond in the Dust

Sixteen-year-old Katy Sollis has had enough of her coal-mining town in Buckeye City. Too many times she has been filled with dread by the sound of the mine alarm, wondering if this time it might be her own father who has died. When he's home, he's wracked by coughs, so weak he can barely laugh. Not that there's much to laugh about, what with barely enough food to go around. Either way, the mines are killing her family. Katy wants to get out, get away from the poverty, the death, and the hunger. She wants to follow her dreams. But she doesn't want to leave her family.

Then her younger brother Nate is offered a job working in the mines. Her parents think it is wonderful that he will be able to help put more food on the table. But Katy can't stand it: Now, when the alarm rings, she fears for two lives. And even though the family has more food, Nate is often too tired to hold up his fork.

Then Katy learns that her distant, worn-down mother is pregnant --- again. And Katy is being pressured to either drop out of school to work or marry Kenny Randall, the son of the owner of the mine. No one cares that she truly loves Michael Stoner, and that one day, he'll also be working in the dangerous mines. There seems to be no escape for her.

Just when things are at their very worst, Katy is offered hope. Now, she must decide if leaving the mines is worth leaving her family and her love. Quickly.  

The Foreword to this novel says that the author herself grew up in a mining town and that many of her family members worked in mines. Perhaps that is why this novel is so rich with historical details: the mother sweeping the house of the coal dust that inevitably gathers each day; children sharing beds and clothes and dirty bath water; and the constant worry of where the next meal will come from. These details really added to the story, and you can't help but feel Katy's plight.

However, and perhaps because the author has such firsthand experience, I found the novel too, too depressing. There was little hope to be found in any corner, and that made reading difficult and not always enjoyable. And while it may be realistic that Katy's mom turned cold from her bitter life, I had a hard time feeling sympathy for her. In a book of such intensity, the reader needs some sort of happiness now and then; but Katy's story just got worse and worse --- and even in the end, things seemed uncertain.

If you are looking for a good book on mining towns, you might also try A LETTER TO MRS. ROOSEVELT by C. Coco de Young. While DIAMOND IN THE DUST is historically accurate, it's hard to feel too much for the characters. It's almost as though you're too scared to get attached because of what might happen. But then, I guess that's how Katy felt every day about the people she already loved.

Reviewed by Kate Torpie on April 1, 2001

A Diamond in the Dust
by Carla Joinson

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2001
  • Hardcover: 197 pages
  • Publisher: Dial
  • ISBN-10: 0803725116
  • ISBN-13: 9780803725119