A Look at Abraham's Novel: "War, West Virginia"

Aug 30, 2013

Blacksburg Writer Michael Abraham has written a number of books about the Virginias.  His newest is called, “War, West Virginia.” 

It’s a fictional tale set in the real life town by that name….  a “what might have been” take on actual events after a dam-break devastates a coal town.

First, came Union, West Virginia, Then Providence, Virginia, and his newest, is titled, War, West Virginia.   All are filled with so much information about these places, their history and culture, their people and passions, that at times they read like non fiction or philosophy.

“People have called me a nonfiction novelist . I’m always driven to tell more than just a story.  I’m always driven to educate.  And I wanted my reader to go there MacDowell County, to War with me and to see what it’s like," he said.

Abraham takes us to a once bustling town of one-hundred thousand -- former  coal miners to the world. Today around twenty thousand people remain.

For his novel, Abraham interviewed people from War and based his characters on some he talked to. The story line too is based is from a real life incident.  In 1972 a coal slurry impoundment dam burst, four days after it was declared safe by a federal inspector.

“There were 125 people killed in an instant and about 4,000 were homeless and basically no one was compensated. And this time when this happens and sweeps through the city of War and kills several hundred people, I have a small group of survivors and when the dignitaries come to town. And this small group of people kidnaps them and when you kidnap someone in that part of the country the place you put them is in a coal mine. “

The story explores the interaction between captor and captives, human tragedy and human kindness. In an act of West Virginian civil disobedience, his characters break the law in an effort to right what they consider a greater wrong.  And as always, the place where Abraham’s book is set, is as much a character in them as the people are.