Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell

I'm always curious about how readers choose the books they read. That's one of the first questions I'll ask a fellow reader – "What made you want to read this?" So, how do you pick your next book? Do you judge a book by its cover, and pick up the cute/interesting/neat-looking novel? Do you ask around for recommendations, and make your selection based on the feedback you receive from your fellow readers? Or, do you search some of the well-known bestsellers lists online to make the choice for your next big read? Perhaps a combination of all these things? I did none of these methods when selecting Tawni O'Dell's Coal Run. In fact, my reason for choosing this book was simply because I had read O'Dell's first book, made famous by Oprah and her Book Club. That first book was called Back Roads. I chose to read that one because O'Dell is actually from my hometown in rural Pennsylvania. When she came out with Coal Run, I knew I had to get it.

I liked how Coal Run began with a look at main character Ivan's childhood in a small, rural western PA coal town. The first few pages were spent revealing a tragedy endured by this small town, when the local coal mine, Gertie, exploded killing many of the local miners. Among the victims was Ivan's father. (Not to worry, that bit of fact is not a spoiler by any means!) After the first few pages regarding his childhood, the story fast forwards to a week in the life of narrator Ivan. The rest of the story is spent revealing little secrets about Ivan's past, from his life as a famous Penn State football player, to his career-shattering injury, to his present day life as a former-local-hero-turned-alcoholic. I found bits and pieces of the story moving and also humorous. I liked Ivan's passion for Crystal, an acquaintance who was nearly beaten to death by her husband. I also enjoyed having a perspective of a male narrator – I don't believe I've read a book in the past with a male telling me the story! His perspective alone provided some humor. I really enjoyed the Penn State reference, being an alum myself! Also, what I like about O'Dell's writing is that it's very relatable for me – in the last two books she's written, they have taken place in western PA towns similar to the one I grew up in. Also, I'm a coal miner's daughter and I honestly had a hard time reading the detailed account at the beginning of book – in fact, it brought tears to my eyes at times.

What I didn't like about the storyline was the lack of drama. I had hoped for more elaboration on Ivan's well-kept secret. I had also wanted to hear more about what was going to happen to the Raynor family, the same family Crystal was married in to. There was no elaboration on his "relationship" with Chastity either. I felt like in the end, I was wanting more, but it was all over. I'm also not entirely sure I understood what the book was supposed to portray – perhaps the troubled life of a former all-star college athlete? I'm sure it was deeper than that and I just missed it.

Out of 5 stars, I would give this book 2.5!

Next up – drum roll…. – Multiple Blessings by Jon & Kate Gosselin!

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