Brutally realistic, and devastating, Hard Mountain Clay is a tale of two siblings alone in the world. With a mother zoned out from her heroin addiction, and her abusive live-in friend with benefits running the house, Ben and Maisy must prepare themselves daily for the unexpected.
This is a savagely honest book. By that I mean it’s a story you may hear happen in real life on your local news. It’s the realistic feel that makes this book hit close to home.
From the beginning you feel for Ben and Maisy, and the hardships they face. The sibling duo must deal with a mother who has lost her soul to drugs, possibly to dull the pain of her life, and the actions of the dirty, nasty, shady live-in boyfriend. Actually, I wouldn’t even call him the boyfriend. More like someone around for convenience.
This all takes place in a little Mountain town. A little rural town nestled in the fog of the mountains. Possibly a beautiful place, if it wasn’t for the crooked people involved with Lou Holt.
When the kids witness a tragic event, or at least the process of covering up a tragic event, their already rough life becomes more complicated. It becomes a story of survival for the kids, how to continue living in this situation, and for how long?
The storytelling has a laid-back compassionate feel that pulls you in and leads you by the wrist in the direction it wants you to go. Not necessarily the correct direction, but the book is telling the story here.
There are points throughout that become true fight or flight moments, with hard decisions needing to be made. You find empathy kicking in with these 2 young kids being the decision makers. Making decisions no kid should have to make.
Hard Mountain Clay strikes hard, and when it strikes, it hits bone. It brings the kind of raw grittiness that makes your teeth hurt but doesn’t prevent you from seeing what happens next.
I am reminded of the Pearl Jam song, Dissident, where Eddie Vedder sings, “Escape is never the safest path.” Hard Mountain Clay will have sweat forming over your brow from the intense moments leading up to the finale. As we the readers pull for Ben and Maisy to survive, to win, we start questioning ourselves what would a “win” in this situation actually consist of? If a “win” were to happen, would it be too late? Or has the merciless living conditions Ben and Maisy have already experienced laid the foundation for these two kids to follow suit?
Title: Hard Mountain Clay
Author: C.W. Blackwell
Publisher: Shotgun Honey Books
Publication Date: January 26, 2022
Format Reviewed: Paperback