Novel "Demon Copperhead": Like Dickens on drugs: A novel about a ten-year-old in the midst of the opioid crisis

There are words that deceive.

Novel "Demon Copperhead": Like Dickens on drugs: A novel about a ten-year-old in the midst of the opioid crisis

There are words that deceive. That float promisingly in space, bursting delicately on the tongue. “Oxy” is one of those. The abbreviation stands for a great evil, oxycodone, the pain medication that has triggered a drug epidemic in America and is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. "Demon Copperhead", the new novel by US author Barbara Kingsolver, tells of desolate areas, broken families and children and young people who grow up without parents.

Ten-year-old Demon, nicknamed "Copperhead" because of his copper-colored hair, lives in a trailer with his mother in rural Virginia. The father is dead, the mother is a drug addict, stepfather Stoner is a thuggish idiot. At every opportunity, Demon seeks refuge with the Peggots, a neighboring family whose amiable members provide reason for hope until the end. Over the course of the story, Demon will lose people close to her because drugs change or kill them, and she will fall under the spell of the pills herself. "Back then I thought my life couldn't get any shittier. My advice. Never think anything like that," he says. Kingsolver uses youth language so authentically, as if she wasn't 68 but a teenager. She has punk in her voice like a Virginie Despentes, her speech images are brilliant. Fireworks are like an “orgasm with a lot of spectators,” and she describes the sounds that keep Demon awake at night in an old farmhouse as a “world championship in cockroach wrestling.”

Sounds wild, but it's not entirely new. “Demon Copperhead” is based exactly on a classic from 1850, “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. Bad stepfather, mother's death, upward and downward spiral. Kingsolver has a contemporary counterpart for every Dickens character, including the good-natured orphan Tommy and the tough stepsister Angus. And with the help of the unstable beauty Dori, she leads him to the edge of another abyss.

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