This book is certainly aptly titled because it is a very dark story. And it is clear that the darkness of which Krisch writes has many dwelling places, including the human heart. Beneath the surface of Coal Hollow there lie two undergrounds. One is the Underground Railroad which transported slaves to freedom. The other Underground leads to eternal imprisonment and damnation while giving a mockery of paradise and eternal life.
Yes, it is a story of contrasts. Light (sunlight) and darkness; good and evil, hope and despair, the living and the undead, religion and myth. It is a novel where sometimes redemption is only achieved through the ultimate of sacrifices. Where eternal life is a curse and liberation can only be sought through death. Where evil and good live on and continue to battle beyond death.
The people of Coal Hollow are complex. They are flawed. They are weak, afraid, or simply vain and selfish, and yet in spite of this are also capable of supreme sacrifice and heroism. There are touching (and heartbreaking) scenes in which goodness shines through in the darkest of places in this novel. Choices are made: some refuse to be tempted and flee while others take up arms against the evil that emerges from the Underground to drag the living down to Hell. Yet no character's action is without cost.
This is a very dark,and ultimately heroic and redemptive novel that escapes the nihilism that tales of this type often fall prey to. And it is not soon forgotten. A scene of a child searching for a home, a scene of young parents sacrificing all for their baby, and a scene of eternal suffering and damnation that would chill Dante himself run through your imagination long after the last page is turned.
Yeah, I probably need to read a book about puppies right now; but I will remember this book for a long time and will be reading more by Glen Kirsch, both now, and I am sure through the years.