February 2, 2021

Salvation on Sand Mountain, by Dennis Covington

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, by Dennis Covington

4 stars: Gritty and honest.

Covington originally went down to Scottsboro, Alabama, to cover the trial of snake handler Glenn Summerford, a man accused of trying to kill his wife by making her stick her hand into a cage of live rattlesnakes.

His brush with this offshoot religion fascinated him. He went to a service or two. He began getting to know the believers. As he went further down this path, he even researched his family history. He felt such a kinship with these people--something more than could be explained away as a bystander. 

What began as a journalism assignment ended up as a soul-searching journey.

* * * * *

I've had this one on my shelves for a long time. I can't even remember when I read it last. A conversation with my kids reminded me of this book, and I decided it was time to re-read it. It raised so many questions in my mind; questions about the ins and outs of this faith and the people who practice it. That's one reason I liked it. I'm still pondering on it a couple of days later.

Covington's account is compelling. I am a religious person. My expressions of faith are very different from those of the snake handlers. This book makes me wonder, though, how much we might have in common, if we were ever to sit down and have a deep conversation together. 

For older teens and adults. 

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