If you are going to have a title like that you need to come up with a good plot and some answers. Scotton's first book looks an awful lot like he thinks it will be his last. He threw everything at it like a pasta cook throws spaghetti at the refrigerator door. The genre is roughly coming-of-age, set within a murder mystery. That might be enough right there, right? But no. We also have the sub stories of the relationship between a kid and his grandfather, newly located in the Appalachians because of the death of his younger brother. We also have the mother mentally screwed up over the accident and his finding a new best friend. And on top of all of that we end up with an Appalachian tramp that is a lot like a spirit or vision quest. Sound ponderous? Well it's not. There is a lot there but Scotton seems to navigate the potential landmines rather well.
Kevin, blamed for the death of his little brother is more or less exiled with his mother to grandfather Pops Peebles house in a very town in Eastern Kentucky. Kevin meets Buzzy, a holler kid who has a lot of secrets of his own. Kevin begins traveling with Pops, a vet, and we meet all the locals, good and bad, and soon there is a hate murder of one of the towns beloved citizens.
Firstly, I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories. I like the notion that we learn, that we grow, that we can change, or that a revelation, or epiphany, we can be better people. I like the lifting of the veil. I'm still waiting for mine.
One of the routines Kevin and Pops have is to sit on the front porch while friends drop by every once in a while. Their relationship becomes one of true admiration and love. It is here that Kevin becomes an adult, of sorts, learning the ways of small towns and the poeple who inhabit them. When Buzzy and Kevin go exploring around the country side, he becomes an adult, of sorts, too. When all three head out on a trail adventure, he becomes an adult, of sorts, as well.
The book isn't without its flaws. Pops is the archetypal grandfather almost to the point that i wouldn't have been surprised to see the townsfolk wearing WWPD bracelets. I would also have liked to have more porch front discussions and maybe a little less Appalachian trail hike. But the writing was always engaging. Here is a brief paragraph to give you a flavor:
"Now we both went silent, staring into the fire at the dancing light of the single flame and at the flame's reflection on the sweating walls; listening to the slow drip of water somewhere down in the cave and the irregular popping of dying coals; fresh friends from completely different worlds faced with the hard shapings of truth and deceit, of right and wrong, and the equivalent damage when high expectations and low expectations are devastatingly unmet."
I read only once daily, at bedtime; they help me get to sleep. Some books help me get to sleep fast, others slower. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth was like having a pot of black coffee. The plot was fairly convoluted, some of the characters one-dimensional, maybe a tad overlong, but overall I raced to bed to get this read. Kevin probably received all the education from his summer he would need to navigate a stelar life. Sadly, I don't think it happens over a summer, or an event. I think we lurch into adult cognition like an old Plymouth with one rear brake locking up at the worst times. Of course, I only speak out of personal experience. Now where are those car keys?