M.C. Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton

M.C. Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton

I received this book for free from the publisher. All content and opinions are my own.

I didn’t know much about this Newbery Medal (and National Book Award) winner by Virginia Hamilton except that I’d never read it, so I jumped at the chance to get the ebook from Open Road via NetGalley. Here’s the blurb:

Mayo Cornelius Higgins perches on top of a homemade forty-foot tower, considering two destinies. Behind him is his family’s beloved house at the foot of a mountain that strip mining has reduced to loose rubble. In front of him, the beautiful Ohio River Valley and the great world beyond. As M.C. weighs whether to stay with the family and home he loves or set off into the world on his own, there appear on the horizon two strangers who will make his decision all the more difficult.

As a slag heap, the result of strip mining, creeps closer to his house in the Ohio hills, fifteen-year-old M.C. is torn between trying to get his family away and fighting for the home they love.

I liked so many elements of this book. I loved M.C. And his siblings. And especially his almost goddess-like mother, Banina. I loved the Girl: Lurhetta Outlaw. And the Dude. I loved the singing. And M.C.’s relationship with his father, Jones, which kind of represents his relationship with the past. The themes here, especially the struggle to forge a relationship with the past and yet move forward, are both universal and very specifically drawn here.

What is perhaps the most memorable about the book, though, is the imagery. You can just see it all. M.C. sitting on his pole. The lake, and the tunnel through the lake. The description of Banina singing and the children yodeling in response. The Killburn clan, all six-fingered, and their compound filled with vegetables. The beautiful mountains. The devastated, strip-mined mountains. All of it is beautifully described. I felt that mountain heap inching toward this family on every page.

This is a lovely and unique coming-of-age story, which, like almost every Newbery winner, I wish I had read first as a child.

M.C. Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton [rating:4]

Have you read or reviewed this book too? Feel free to jump in with your thoughts or leave a link to your review in the comments.