Demon Copperhead

Barbara Kingsolver

Demon Copperhead
Faber & Faber
United Kingdom
25 May 2023

Demon Copperhead

Barbara Kingsolver

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2023
Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2023

Demon Copperhead: a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Demon befriends us on this, his journey through the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Inspired by the unflinching truth-telling of David Copperfield, Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead gives voice to a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.


Barbara Kingsolver reimagines and recaptures the soul and spirit of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield in her breathtaking new novel set in modern Southern Appalachia, USA. Damon (quickly nicknamed Demon) was never destined to live an easy life. Born to a single teenaged mother who lives in a trailer park with her abusive older boyfriend, he is only equipped with a few weapons in life: his dead father’s good looks, his devilish charm and a knack for survival. As the reader, you are constantly in awe as you watch Demon brave the dangers of foster care, child labour, drug addiction during an opioid epidemic, poverty and starvation.

Because of his rough childhood, Demon has had to grow up quicker to survive. His view of the world is more jaded than the other children around him, and his brain is sharpened with lightning-speed cunning and wit. But it is admirable seeing how his heart has not hardened, softening for the friends he makes, the sweethearts he falls for, and the strangers he meets along the way who unexpectedly help banish the demons in his life.

Demon’s story is plagued with tragedies, some scenes so unbearably sad and harrowing one cannot imagine how someone as young as he could keep going. But he talks through his experiences to the reader in a conversational manner, bringing a mischievous magnetism and wily sense of humour that warms your heart and imprints the character in your brain long after putting down the book. He is a hero worth rooting for.

Dickens called David Copperfield his ‘favourite child’, and I personally believe that he would have been proud to see Kingsolver’s unforgettable epic, and perhaps would have even called it his ‘favourite grandchild’. It is a wondrous coming-of-age story worthy of comparison to its inspiration.

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