Author: Amy Allgeyer
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Release Date: April 1, 2016
From the publisher—
With her mother facing prison time for a violent political protest, seventeen-year-old Liberty Briscoe has no choice but to leave her Washington, DC, apartment and take a bus to Ebbottsville, Kentucky, to live with her granny. There she can finish high school and put some distance between herself and her mother– her ‘former’ mother, as she calls her. But Ebbottsville isn’t the same as Liberty remembers, and it’s not just because the top of Tanner’s Peak has been blown away to mine for coal. Half the county is out of work, an awful lot of people in town seem to be sick, and the tap water is bright orange–the same water that officials claim is safe to drink. When Granny’s lingering cold turns out to be something much worse, Liberty is convinced the mine is to blame, and starts an investigation that quickly plunges her into a world of secrets, lies, threats, and danger. Liberty isn’t deterred by any of it, but as all her searches turn into dead ends, she comes to a difficult decision: turn to violence like her former mother or give up her quest for good.
I tend to shy away from any novel that seems as though the author might have an agenda of some sort and I admit to being a little leery of Dig Too Deep for that reason since it seemed clear that environmental issues would be front and center. There was something about it, though, that appealed to me, mostly the apparent dichotomy between mother and daughter, so I decided to take a chance and I’m glad I did.
Yes, the damage that can be done in coal mining is a very important element of this book but I actually found my connection to be more with the changes that take place in Liberty because of those environmental issues. From a girl who heartily resents her mother for placing her causes above her daughter, Liberty gradually becomes her mother in a fashion once she begins to understand the harm being done to her granny and the community.
The community is the other thing that particularly struck me and the author does a masterful job of bringing the locale to life. I’ve spent time in coal country and Ms. Allgeyer gets it right, evoking a strong sense of the deep poverty but also the haunting beauty. She also has a fine hand in making the reader feel the people’s devotion and loyalty to each other and the land and her characterization of Granny in particular is vivid and appealing.
As for the central story, the greed and moral corruption of the company’s management is obvious and certainly easy to paint as evil but I did think it was a bit overdone. There’s no doubt that Big Business can be very much on the dark side but I felt not enough attention was paid to what could happen to the community, to the people’s livelihoods, if the company were forced to make dramatic, expensive changes. I’m not saying the environmental problem should be ignored—far from it—just that all potential consequences need to be considered and planned for.
Whatever my concerns might be, Ms. Allgeyer is clearly a talented writer and has given readers a compelling story. I’m interested to see what she’ll offer next.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.
About the Author
The youngest of seven kids, Amy has been writing stories since she first learned to make her letters face the right way. Her work has appeared in Family Fun, A Fly in Amber and Stories for Children. As an architect, she spends her days restoring hundred-year-old homes in Boise where she lives with her son, a feral house cat, and a fake owl named Alan. She hates chocolate, but loves vegetables. She also loves traveling to foreign lands and the smell of honeysuckle on humid Southern nights.
Amy is represented by the lovely and amazing Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary.
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