Tasked with an assignment to manage the construction of a prison on a remote Appalachian mountaintop, Tucker Mason sees an opportunity to restart his life past the death of his wife and the recurring demons of his childhood. But strange occurrences at the house that he rented on Bright’s Mountain and the suspicion of drugs being smuggled through the prison construction site create distractions … that lead to violence, intrigue, and his own imperilment. Struggling under the weight of loss and guilt, he encounters a world that he never knew existed in the shadow of the emerging prison. With a unique perspective on the human condition, Beyond the Higher Ground takes its reader through a historical glimpse of Southwestern Virginia to a powerful exposition of the drug crisis that has devastated the region and the abject brutality of those who deliver it.
This was honestly a very good book. First, there was the story. It was detailed, focused mainly on the current situation of Tuck temporarily relocation to rural West Virginia to oversee the building on a new prison. There’s plenty going on there, between his job, some unique locals, and the drug trade. Some attention is also given to Tuck’s past, including the loss of his wife and his family situation. That’s enough to keep anyone’s interest! I never found the dual timeline confusing at all, and I liked how gradually learning more about Tuck’s past shed light on his present actions.
Tuck himself is a great character, very realistic and nuanced. Other characters (both past and present) are given enough details to make them seem like real people as well.
Also, this book is VERY well-written. Some reviewers have complained about the author’s style, but I found it to be beautiful, and obviously the product of an educated mind. I’d love to read more by Thomas A. Brigger!
Thank you to The Review Crew and the author for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
Beyond The Higher Ground
By: Thomas A. Brigger
Beyond The Higher Ground was an uphill battle. I say this, not because of plot holes or character dislike, rather, because of the overinflated word choice and narrative style. Potential for an excellent story is present but poorly executed. A grieving widower, a desolate mountain and the infiltration of drugs are intriguing elements.
I expected a fictional story, but I got an academic exposition. I lost the crux of the story under the overly worded narrative. I could not decide whether this was the author’s style or if he was pontificating for his own sake (hopefully not). I respect and esteem different writing styles, and this particular one happens to disagree with me. I do not, however, respect grandiose wording for show, so, obviously, I hope this is a style issue; then, the problem lies with me in my individual tastes and not the author. I have never personally cared for academic leaning fiction, but many people certainly do and will find this book most agreeable.
I appreciate the important issues the author addresses, in particular the impactful consequences on local communities resulting from the infiltrating drug trade. Why do these horrors nearly always affect those who can least afford it-mentally, bodily and financially? To say it is atrocious is an understatement -and not at all helpful. What would be most beneficial to the people carrying this burden? I have no answer, but I hope this story shines a light on the issues for further discussions.
Beyond The Higher Ground may or may not suit your reading preferences. If you find the style agreeable, I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book. If not, better luck next time.
“Beyond the Higher Ground” by Thomas A. Brigger is a very impressive book! I was initially unsure if I’d enjoy it, as it’s about a man sent to rural Virginia to oversee the building of a new prison. I opted to give it a try based on the location, as I’m from near that area, and have traveled through locations mentioned in the book. I’m SO glad I did! (If the prison aspect is holding you back, no worries…what matters is the location, not what is being built. Tuck could have been building a strip mall or apartment complex….what’s important is that he is in that place at that time. This is NOT a prison story.)
That being said….this book was so much more than I expected! The author obviously knows both the area and the construction business well, and it shows throughout the story. Everything rings true, and the descriptions of the area are detailed and allow the reader to vicariously appreciate the view. Despite the often-dark elements of the story, the reader is always reminded that everything is taking place in a region of astounding natural beauty.
The story itself centers around Tuck, who is sent to live in this area for roughly 18 months while he oversees the building project. In the course of this time, he encounters and deals with a lot…his actual job, new friends, friendly locals, hostile locals, bizarre occurrences, and the local drug trade. During it all, he’s still trying to process the unexpected death of his young wife, and figuring out how to move on with his life.
There is plenty going on throughout the book, with the action really ramping up toward the end. By that time, I was strongly invested in several other characters in addition to Tuck, and really cared about what happened to them.
There is plenty of harsh reality in this book….it’s not a light, fun read. The various aspects of the drug trade and their effects on the mostly lower-income locals are addressed realistically, which means not in a pretty way. Nothing gratuitous is thrown in just for shock value, and there’s no excessive violence or gore. I still walked away feeling truly saddened by the knowledge that things like these happen in real life every day, both in the book’s area and in other parts of the country.
You’ll meet some admirable characters: Tuck, who is trying to do his job (and the right thing), Cletus (who is trying to stand up for what he believes in), Sally (who is trying to make everyone happy and comfortable), Cecil (who has an amazing life story to share), and others. It was fascinating getting to know them all, and to learn more about the history of the area through the lives of certain characters.
There are two special, happy bits near the end….one a minor character moment/reveal that I didn’t see coming, and one a glimpse into the future that I’d been hoping for. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I appreciated both of these thoughtful touches from the author.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality of the writing itself…it is excellent! There is true poetry contained in some of the passages, and I often found myself stopping to re-read a sentence or two, just to appreciate the beauty of the language.
Give this one a try…I highly recommend it!
Five out of five chunks of spicy Pepper-Jack!