- Publication Date: October 18, 2022
- Print Length: 560 pages
- Winner of 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
THE EMPIRE OF PAIN: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE SACKLER DYNASTY
- Publication Date: April 13, 2021
- Print Length: 625 pages
- Best Book of 2021; The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe
Modeled after David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Kingsolver tells a coming-of-age story of Demon Copperhead, a teenage orphan who struggles to survive in an Appalachia that has been devastated by opioid addiction.
While Kingsolver humanizes the suffering caused by the opioid epidemic, Patrick Radden Keefe’s book, The Empire of Pain, reveals how the Sackler family plotted to promote, market, and distribute oxycontin, as a non-addictive antidote to pain. As part of his research into the origins of America’s opioid epidemic, Keefe identifies the short-sighted policy decisions and greed that allowed oxycontin to become so widely abused, particularly in Appalachia.
In Kingsolver’s account, opioid addiction is just one of the hardships children in Appalachia’s poor, rural communities face as the systems designed to help them fail to do so. For his part, Keefe highlights the ways in which the FDA and the American justice system were slow to respond to the widespread problems of opioid addiction until the problem became a full-blown epidemic in which nearly 500,000 Americans have died.
REVIEWS AND AUTHOR INFORMATION
Kois, Dan, “Barbara Kingsolver was Writing Social Justice Novels Before they were Cool.” Slate, October 17, 2022. https://slate.com/culture/2022/10/barbara-kingsolver-interview-demon-copperhead-appalachia-identity-politics.html
Young, Molly, “In Barbara Kingsolver’s New Novel, an Appalachian David Copperfield.” The New York Times, October 16, 2022. Book Review: “Demon Copperhead,” by Barbara Kingsolver – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Charles, Ron, “Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Demon Copperhead’ may be the Best Novel of 2022.” The Washington Post, October 25, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/2022/10/25/barbara-kingsolver-demon-copperhead-review/
Carreyrou, John, “Patrick Radden Keefe Lays Bare a Drug Crisis Fueled by Family Greed.” The New York Times, April 13, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/books/review/empire-of-pain-sackler-dynasty-patrick-radden-keefe.html
At the beginning of Demon Copperhead, Kingsolver quotes Dickens, writing, “It’s in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.” Has she helped to counter the negative, hillbilly stereotypes with which communities in Appalachia are sometimes regarded?
Like Charles Dickens before her, Barbara Kingsolver hoped to call attention to the plight of children who face poverty, addiction and social systems that fail to help them. Has she succeeded in humanizing the struggles that young people living in Appalachia’s poor, rural communities face?
While Kingsolver has written Demon Copperhead as a novel, Keefe narrates a well- researched, non-fiction account detailing how the Sackler family orchestrated the wide-spread distribution of oxycontin. Are these two story-telling techniques equally powerful in underscoring the devastation caused by oxycontin?
In what ways did the Purdue Pharma’s policies related to the marketing and distribution of oxycontin play out in rural communities in Appalachia? What were the factors that led the drug to be so widely abused?
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