Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood  -     By: Drema Hall Berkheimer
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Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood

Zondervan / 2016 / Paperback

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Product Description

In Running on Red Dog Road, Drema Hall Berkheimer shares stories from her childhood growing up in 1940's Appalachia. After her father is killed in the coal mines, her mother must go off to work, and Drema is left in the care of her devout Pentecostal grandparents. Faith healers, moonshiners, and snake handlers populate her stories as she serves witness to a multigenerational family of saints and sinners with wit and keen observations.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 202
Vendor: Zondervan
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 8.40 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0310344964
ISBN-13: 9780310344964

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Publisher's Description

"Mining companies piled trash coal in a slag heap and set it ablaze. The coal burned up, but the slate didn’t. The heat turned it rose and orange and lavender. The dirt road I lived on was paved with that sharp-edged rock. We called it red dog. Grandma told me, Don’t you go running on that red dog road. But I do."

Gypsies, faith-healers, moonshiners, and snake handlers weave through Drema’s childhood in 1940s Appalachia after her father is killed in the coal mines, her mother goes off to work as a Rosie the Riveter, and she is left in the care of devout Pentecostal grandparents. What follows is a spitfire of a memoir that reads like a novel with intrigue, sweeping emotion, and indisputable charm. Drema’s coming of age is colored by tent revivals with Grandpa, poetry-writing hobos, and traveling carnivals, and through it all, she serves witness to a multi-generational family of saints and sinners whose lives defy the stereotypes. Just as she defies her own.

Running On Red Dog Road is proof that truth is stranger than fiction, especially when it comes to life and faith in an Appalachian childhood.

Author Bio

Drema Hall Berkheimer was born in a coal camp in Appalachia, the child of a West Virginia coal miner who was killed in the mines, a Rosie the Riveter mother, and devout Pentecostal grandparents. Her tales of hobnobbing with gypsies, moonshiners, snake handlers, hobos, and faith healers, are published in numerous online and print journals. Excerpts from her memoir, Running On Red Dog Road and Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood, won first place Nonfiction and First Honorable Mention Nonfiction in the 2010 West Virginia Writers competition. She is a member of West Virginia Writers, Salon Quatre, and The Writer’s Garret. A longtime resident of Dallas, she lives with her husband and a neurotic cat that takes after her. Her husband is mostly normal.

Editorial Reviews

Every once in a while, a voice comes along that makes you yearn for a childhood you never lived. Author Drema Hall Berkheimer invites you to skip along with her, big sis Vonnie, and best friend Sissy into the coal mining hills and hollers of West Virginia, at a time when gypsies and hobos were as common as doctors who made house calls.
Running on Red Dog Road took me away to a time and a family that I will never forget. Drema Hall Berkheimer is a masterful, joyful, humorous storyteller who is just getting started. What a great book.
Time and again I have been carried away by these stories, by the observations of a very shrewd little girl of her elders, both wise and the foolish. But don’t let the sly humor fool you. Like the West Virginia coal country Drema Berkheimer writes about so affectionately and beautifully, there is always something going on here just beneath the surface, something grave, firmly rooted, even eternal.
Drema Hall Berkheimer is a pure storyteller, one of the most wonder- fully gifted I’ve ever read. As they make their way through Running on Red Dog Road, readers will smile continually, laugh out loud occasionally, and turn misty-eyed at times of joy or sadness as this child of Appalachia shares so lovingly her growing-up experiences with her cherished family and friends. Her phrasing is so exquisite and her words so perfectly chosen that her writing is a mixture of prose and poetry. It’s best read in private, so there will be no distractions as the reader travels hand in hand with the author from beginning to end.
Running on Red Dog Road is an American treasure. Echoes of Mark Twain resonate in Ms. Berkheimer’s tales of life in West Virginia in the care of loving and wise grandparents while her widowed mother helps save the world as a Rosie the Riveter. This family is an icon of what we should wish to be. Truly a needed voice in our world.
I love this memoir. The voice is masterful. Berkheimer layers into a perceptive child narrator an understated love of her family, a sassy streak that dodges consequences, and a precocious questioning of the society that surrounds her.
A competent historian could get the details right about mid-century Pentecostal Appalachian culture, but only Drema Hall Berkheimer could set us right in the middle of it. Through the eyes of a little girl who doesn’t miss a thing, we experience spicy stew in the gypsy camp, and creative avenues to intoxication, and river baptisms. If the child Drema’s observations could not always be shared with her grandparents, they are now shared with us. That will be to the delight of every reader.
A sweet, whimsical, and often touching account of the author’s childhood during a kinder, gentler era. It triggered great nostalgia during my reading.
In this gem of a book, Drema digs deep into her memory pool to bring forth images of well-developed places, characters, and things. In this highly technological age, we need this story to understand how ordinary people survived, thrived, and endured.

Product Reviews

5 Stars Out Of 5
5 out of 5
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5 out Of 5
(5 out of 5)
Meets Expectations:
5 out Of 5
(5 out of 5)
of customers would recommend this product to a friend.
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  1. Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Gracious Plenty
    May 12, 2016
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Hanging laundry this morning to riotous birdsong, I carefully secured the corner of each bath towel, and then smiled, thinking of Nana.

    You go out there, and you hang that laundry so it looks right.

    I cant remember did we roll our eyes back in the seventies? But it will dry just fine the way it is, I protested. (Im sure that we whined back in the seventies.) Nobody cares what our laundry looks like on the clothesline!

    Dont you kid yourself . . .

    Having grown up in the home of my grandparents, I have a shared perspective with author Drema Hall Berkheimer. Her grandma, lovingly portrayed in Running on Red Dog Road, had the same what-will-the-neighbors-think basis for morality, but shored up with a hearty dose of Pentecostal Holiness doctrine.

    There was no question about it: in Dremas growing-up world, Grandma was in charge of things.

    Not only did Grandma always know Gods opinion on every topic, but she also knew when it was inappropriate to draw attention to oneself, how Grandpa should drive, and, above all, what kind of quiet dignity should characterize a preachers family. Her vigilance particularly applied to little girls who should, under no circumstances, be seen running down Fourth Avenue in small town East Beckley, West Virginia. Fourth Avenue was a red dog road, covered with the colorful waste products of the areas robust coal mining industry, the industry that had claimed the life of the authors father. When her mother took a Rosie the Riveter job in New York, the center of Dremas world shifted to her grandparents home.

    Berkheimers memoir comes from the perspective of a precocious nine-year-old, sharing insights, sometimes hilarious and sometimes jarring, of life in World War II era America with its proud frugality and its humble abundance. She attests to the fact that children could and did find ways to get into trouble back then and has peopled her tales with colorful characters that stay with the reader even after the last page has been read.

    History lovers who enjoy period recipes will enjoy reading about Grandmas policy to feed everyone, thoroughly and often. Making a feast out of the tail end of a garden or slaughtering and then boiling the carcasses of an entire flock of chickens and then canning the meat, Grandma elevated making do to banquet fare.

    Parents and teachers will enjoy reading a childs perspective on the Christian faith. Drema was convinced that sanctification was somehow tied up with the absence of feathers in ones wardrobe, and, based on what she had observed in church, she defined a testimony as when someone got up and said what a terrible person he had been until he got saved. She worried that playing gin rummy might possible send her straight to hell until she developed the fall-back plan of converting to Methodism when she grew up. (Methodists were, apparently, allowed to play cards.) Already well-versed in theodicy, she suspected that God wasnt always fair [based on] dealings Id had with him, and her top priority in Sunday worship was nabbing the pew fan with the picture of the blue-eyed Jesus.

    Humor tinged with melancholy, stories that carry a quiet moral without preaching, and an understanding that the gifts of God are all good, Drema Berkheimer shares with her readers the gracious plenty of her own childhood and opens our eyes to the wild, whooping extravagance of God all around us, waiting to be seen in our own sacred places.


    This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  2. Indiana
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    really intriguing
    May 1, 2016
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    I must admit that it is the cover that first drew my attention to the book, then reading the summary I was intrigued. Reading how life was for others is a favorite pastime for me, because I tend to forget that life for others isnt a duplicate of mine. Each place and person mentioned in this biography is unique and treasured by the author and her descendents.

    As I read I saw such a stark difference to the way I grew up not only because I am from a different generation, but also from a different place. Sometimes we look around us and think that what exists has always been so, but when you read a biography the light goes on inside our minds. We are reminded that life while ended for some, impacted people for generations.

    I think the author does a great job sharing some of her memories and granting readers a peek into the past and at people very dear to her. I can imagine too what a book of memories might mean to those who are descendents from those who leave behind a written map. You see as we look at our ancestors we in some ways begin to understand ourselves; this is a clear point in the book.

    The author is thankful to God for those who raised her and her family as a whole; they werent perfect, but they are hers and they are treasures. It wasnt just family either; it was best friends who grew up together, kept each others secrets and reminisce even today about yesteryear. I wonder with all our electronic gadgets if we arent losing some of our memories because we arent making time to journal them for the next generation.

    Maybe, like me, you will read this biography and consider writing down your memories, both good and bad so that those who come after will understand where they came from and how important your walk with God was to living life daily for Him.
  3. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    Entertaining Stories
    April 23, 2016
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    "Drema Hall Berkheimer was born in a coal camp in Appalachia, the child of a West Virginia coal miner who was killed in the mines, a Rosie the Riveter mother, and devout Pentecostal grandparents." (quote from the back cover) In this memoir from her childhood in a West VA town during the 1940's, Berkheimer shares stories that caused me to laugh out loud numerous times. Tales of church with her grandparents, delivering money to a moonshiner, an aunt's romantic adventures, her brother's illness and resulting deafness, hobos, gypsies, snake handlers, life and death and everything in between, made it hard to put the book down.

    This book is easy and quick to read, and takes the reader back to the "good old days" of family, rural living, neighborliness, and faith. Considering the publisher is Zondervan, I expected there to be more of the faith aspect in her story. Religion/faith in this book is a reality in the grandparents' lives, but not so much for anyone else, except as they interact with the grandparents, or, as in Drema's case, more of a fear of hell than a personal relationship with God. In any case, the book reads, as one author bio I found states, like "the Waltons meet Little House on the Prairie" and I am looking forward to reading the sequel that Berkheimer is writing.

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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