Resources // Blog

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

--Staff Picks

Demon Copperhead

Barbara Kingsolver
Published: 2022
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Awards: Pulitzer Prize

Barbara Kingsolver employs her exceptional talent for character development and world-building for the eponymous Damon “Demon Copperhead” Fields, set in Appalachia from the 1990s to today, in her retelling of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.

For readers of the Dickens tale, it is fun exercise to compare the new and the old versions of the classic story. But Demon Copperhead stands on its own as a wonderful novel, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2023. It is as much about the rural experience of living in Lee County, Virginia, and the insidious spread of the opioid epidemic, as it is about the Dickensian themes of growing up as an orphan in abject poverty and learning difficult, heartbreaking lessons to overcome hardship.

Furthermore, Kingsolver beautifully captures the worldview of non-urban folks through their country wisdom and sense of community, neither of which are fully understood or experienced by city dwellers. She is masterful at connecting her characters and readers to nature in all of her works; in Demon Copperhead, the rural setting and natural landscape form Demon’s perspective, from his youth spent exploring and working the land, to superstitions about drowning at a nearby waterfall, to his lifelong goal of going to the ocean.

Listening to the audiobook performed by Charlie Thurston comes highly recommended, available on CD or as an e-audiobook. Thurston’s accent and manner of speaking heighten the experience, putting colloquialisms and regional vernacular in context. Demon Copperhead is a great read for anyone who enjoys seeing – and understanding – the world through different lenses.