Synopses & Reviews
Supplying a quarter of San Franciscos coal, Nortonville of the 1860s-70s is a flourishing empire in small, seeming to promise unending prosperity and a better future. But beneath the vibrant work ethic of its Welch citizens lies an insidious network of superstitions.
A missing boy first brings these dark undercurrents to light. Then young Asher Witherow falls under the spell of an unorthodox apprentice minister, stirring a whirlpool of suspicion and outrage. Soon Asher finds himself trapped in a nightmarish crucible, all the more excruciating because he himself could end it if he could only find the strength of will. This is a lesson the missing boy has taught him, and what he understands instinctively from the alluring Anna Flood, new to Nortonville, who with her raw sensuality and independence seems to offer some hope of redemption or even escape.
In this powerful debut from a young writer of stunning talent, M. Allen Cunningham takes us into a time and place at once gritty and magical, when the future seems filled with promise but where the days labor is bone breaking, numbing and always dangerous.
Gorgeously written, historically authentic, The Green Age of Asher Witherow is a novel of tested loyalties, of condemnation and redemption. The characters deep emotional lives are complex and vivid, fluctuating from the doomed to the transcendent. As he unpacks his heart, Asher comes to realize that all his early traumas have somehow bonded him to the land surrounding Mount Diablo and infused his life with an inward wealtha treasure at which we can only wonder.
"This debut novel from a newly minted press centers on life in the coal-mining town of Nortonville, CA, in the 1860sà. With heartfelt characters and stunning descriptions, Cunningham presents a historical glimpse of squalor in the mines that will haunt readers. Highly recommended." — Library Journal
"The Green Age of Asher Witherow is one of the finest debut novels I've ever read. . . . For a twenty-six-year-old novelist to produce this book ought to be impossible, but you hold the shocking evidence in your hands." & Steve Yarbrough, author of The Oxygen Man
Book Sense October 2004 #1 Pick
"Rarely does a writer combine a strikingly beautiful prose style with an unerring instinct for storytelling. But this is indeed M. Allen Cunningham's startling accomplishment—in his literary debut, no less. The Green Age of Asher Witherow is an enchanting novel by a lushly talented young writer." & Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prise winning A Good Scent from A Strange Mountain
"... a remarkable first novel, a feat reminiscent of William Styrons Lie Down in Darkness, likewise published in the authors twenty-sixth year. Not only are the stories of both novels carefully designed, but every sentence in each one is crafted with care."--ForeWord Magazine
artfully told.”The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Gritty and magical, fantastic and authentic.
It is one of the best books I've read this year."
--Susan Swagler, The Birmingham News
spins a deceptively simple tale from a language as delicate as lace
"Cunningham captures the feel of 19-th century California with rich detail and memorable characters."The Oregonian
An accomplished first novel from a talented new writer (and presented by an intriguing new publisher), Cunninghams tale is a mix of wild supposition and real-life facts about what happened in Nortonville, the Contra Costa coal- mining town that disappeared from its post at the foot of Mount Diablo in the late 19th century. . . Part legend, part horror story, part Pacific Rim myth, part fact and part metaphor, "The Green Age of Asher Witherow" is Gothic, yes, but also quite spiritual.”The Santa Cruz Sentinel
Dark and foreboding, vivid in character, grounded in the geography of Northern California, this is an impressive and satisfying debut novel.”The San Jose Mercury News
An amazing first novel.”The Rocky Mountain News
"A story too terrible to keep reading but too compelling to put down."
The Salt Lake Tribune
With heartfelt characters and stunning descriptions, Cunningham presents a historical glimpse of squalor in the mines that will haunt readers.
Highly recommended.”--Library Journal, starred
"The Green Age of Asher Witherow is one of the finest debut novels I've ever read. Cunningham writes with poetic intensity, but this is also a book with enormous narrative drive, memorable characters and relentless drama. And while the author is an artist rather than a scholar, he serves up a wealth of fascinating information about the history of the Golden State. For a twenty-six-year-old novelist to produce this book ought to be impossible, but you hold the shocking evidence in your hands."--Steve Yarbrough, author of THE OXYGEN MAN
"Rarely does a writer combine a strikingly beautiful prose style with an unerring instinct for storytelling. But this is indeed M. Allen Cunninghams startling accomplishment, in his literary debut, no less. The Green Age of Asher Witherow is an enchanting novel by a lushly talented young writer." Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning A GOOD SCENT FROM A STRANGE MOUNTAIN
The writing in The Green Age of Asher Witherow is beautiful, the details enviable, the landscapes amazing, the characters well-drawn. It=s like this guy is 200 years old, he gets it so right. Cunningham is a writer we'll be hearing a lot more from.”--Tom Franklin, author of HELL AT THE BREACH
The early buzz on this debut novel serves up terms like: "poetic intensity"; "strikingly beautiful prose style"; "unerring instinct for storytelling"; "a startling accomplishment"; and "lushly talented". I will state emphatically that Mr. Cunningham's first novel is all that and much more. This is a literary novel in the finest sense of the word, magnetic and seductive from first word to last. ...This is a book to be savored, written by a gifted wordsmith. It has my highest recommendation.”-- Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review
About the Author
M.Allen Cunningham's work has appeared in a number of literary magazines, including Glimmer Train, Boulevard, Epoch, and Alaska Quarterly Review. His short fiction has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. This is his first novel. He lives in Nothern California.