Mayo Cornelius Higgins, also known as M.C. Higgins the Great (because he is the best swimmer to come out of the hills),
lives on the side of Sarah's Mountain. His family has lived in these Ohio hills since great-grandmother, Sarah, a runaway slave, escaped to this mountain.
As the oldest child, 15 year old M.C. spends his days watching out for his younger brothers and sisters, hunting and
fishing, and observing his world from atop a 40 foot pole given to him by his father.
Life would be idyllic if not for the ugly gashes sliced into the side of the mountain by bulldozers strip-mining for
coal. An enormous slag heap, left over from the process, is perched precariously
on the side of the mountain facing M.C.'s home. He has a recurring dream in which
his family home is buried beneath this pile of rubble as it breaks loose and comes crashing down.
This story weaves around this close knit, loving family coming into contact with two strangers. M.C.'s worries seem to be resolved when he meets the "Dude" who has come to hear Banina, his mother, sing. M.C. is convinced the Dude will help Banina become a famous singer and the family can
move away from the dangerous situation at home.
The other intriguing stranger, Lurhetta Outlaw, a few years older than M.C., travels from place to place, so she can
see the world. Her freedom and ability to see beyond the hills and mountains
reveal more about the world than M.C. has ever considered.
Through vivid, descriptive writing, the author takes the reader on a journey deep into the mystery and superstition
of the Appalachian Mountains
and the people who live there. Some of the depictions of hunting and skinning
are enough to make the reader cringe and at times the language becomes tedious. This
is a story for a mature reader who has persistence to keep on going. Its worth
More a story of rural people living life on life's terms in the mountains who happen to be African-American,
the reader can see through M.C.'s eyes as he develops an understanding of his father's deep commitment to the mountain and
his own appreciation for his heritage. In the end, the family stays on their beloved mountain.
This novel has received numerous awards including the Newbery Award, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn
Book Award. Interestingly enough, Ms. Hamilton was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a town her grandfather, Levi Perry, escaped to from
slavery (Amazon.com). Perhaps this gives her the insight to write as if she knows
these people. The reader comes away with a sense of what life was like in these