Good-bye and Keep Cold provides an unflinching and distressing look at one family’s life in the early 1970’s in the back country of Eastern Kentucky. Davis, an environmental activist, shows the personal side of the destructiveness of strip mining. She argues that there is real ambivalence in people’s attitudes toward the mines and the mountains that they destroy. The love of the mountaintops and “hollers” keeps the people there; the necessities of survival cause them to ignore the scarred landscapes of “mountain-top removal,” even after the Strip Mining Act of 1975. This dichotomy is reflected in a heated argument between Henry John and Annie when he accuses the indigenous population of sloth and laziness; she says that the lack of craftsmanship is a mark of despair. This ambivalence is also at work in the Combs family: The mining operation claims Ed’s life and later gives Frances a much-needed job. Davis also uses Eastern Kentuckian canon about the paramount importance of belonging to an established family in order to highlight the merits and the destructiveness of such interdependency and to show the parallel development of both daughter and mother toward emotional and social maturity.
“We’re a little colony of outsiders,” Frances says, feeling alienated from life in Cauley Creek. She will not discuss her childhood as an orphan, and she satisfies her desperate need for belonging with Ed, Annie, and her children. Devastated when Ed dies, Frances becomes disorganized and detached. Banker is the only stable adult in this family, and he only listens. Henry John, a second-generation Irish immigrant and an outsider himself,...
(The entire section is 681 words.)