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Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite
Lowell Douglas Bailey and Vergie Ellen Terry, who tied the knot on the 28th of May, 1945, belong to the generation of Americans that experienced the last years of coal camp life in West Virginia. In Forged by Coal, their first child, Terry Bailey, tells their story and reveals what building a family was like for coal miners in the last decade that coal companies maintained full ownership. The first part of the book covers when Vergie and Doug met, their families, their wedding, and the devastating tragedy they suffered while expecting their first child. Following this is a narration of the reality and struggle of moving to the coal camps. Part III, the largest part of the story, depicts the lifestyle of the coal miners and their families, with the Baileys at the center of the story.
It's amazing that though the working and living conditions were far from ideal for the Baileys in the coal camps, they still endeavored to give their children their best and steer them to a better, healthier reality. The highly comprehensive and well-organized pages of the book gave me a good picture of the lifestyle of Americans in the 50s and 60s—including the state of technology, medicine, education, and other phenomena. I particularly enjoyed reading about the early stages of polio vaccination from the perceptive of the Baileys, who had to weigh up the dangers and benefits of giving their child the new treatment. Terry Bailey tells a beautifully, meticulously written story that teaches the value of resilience in the face of challenging situations. Forged by Coal inspired me to do what I can to create a more humane existence for the next generation.