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Coal Run (2004)

by Tawni O'Dell

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337757,911 (3.78)5
Ivan Zoschenko, the local deputy and football legend, his pro career sidelined by a knee injury, spends a week preparing for an old teammate's release from prison. During the events of the week, Ivan reveals himself to be a man whose conscience is burdened by a secret that must be reckoned with.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
i really love the writing in this book. from the beginning it is just gorgeous, and seems to capture the soul of towns (and their people) that survive even after the industry that kept it running has died. in this case, it was coal mining, and there are a lot of nice images and metaphors about darkness and light that refer back to the coal and the mines.

i like the themes of redemption, self loathing, belonging, and survival that come up again and again. i'm not as sure about some of her other choices, like ivan's hero worship of val manifested in an unbelievable way, until the end. also the two parts of the book where she tries to mislead the reader were obvious ploys and the truth was so immediately clear that it made me question ivan's intelligence for not seeing it. (it could hardly have been more clear that bobbie was the one that hit danny, not jess. and it was even more obvious that it was reese who was killed, not any of the other raynors.)

in spite of any of it, though, i just loved the way this was written. stellar, stellar writing.

"I guess all I'm saying is, there's an endless supply of rednecks, blacks, Hispanics, and fuck-ups between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. That's all I'm saying. If we ever have to call up Stan Jack's son, we might want to reconsider this war."

"I look over at the mummified tree. In the moonlight it has the silver-gray sheen of a bone that's been sucked on." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | May 19, 2016 |
Synopsis: a former football hero returns to his small coal mining town in PA, thinking to mete out justice to a wife-beater who is just getting out on parole. A wide variety of local characters are portrayed compassionately, helping us see them as worthy humans despite the hard times they are going thru.
O'Dell has packed much wisdom into her tale. Yes, the protagonist drinks too much, which generally makes me dislike them, but you can feel the burden of guilt he is under and his struggle to do right. This book brings you in at the time of the resolution of years of avoidance, and Ivan's confrontation with his past is informed by a recognition of the simple human acts of goodness that create a community. One thing that is missing is more scenes where we see Ivan performing those same acts himself. We read about other people admiring him, and having a good opinion of him, but since we mostly read about his own self doubts and escapes into drinking, we just have to take it on faith that he is the kind of person others like to be around.
hmmm...I'm not sure my review has made this seem like an enticing book to read, but it truly is. I've marked passages to return to --one of my criteria for a good book. ( )
  juniperSun | Mar 11, 2011 |
A New York Times Bestselling Author. A Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate Selection. Coal Run is a community of ghosts and memories, where a mining explosion that caused the deaths of so many men and the transformation of their families still reverberates a generation later. Driven by the same raw energy, humor, suspense, and compassion for a place and way of life so evident in O'Dell's. New York Times bestseller Back Roads. Coal Run is a story about lett of the goals of greatness for the ordinary grace of good work, family love, and acceptance of where you come from. ( )
  plm1250 | Aug 26, 2010 |
O'Dell certainly knows her subject matter. As a member of a family historically connected with the Pennsylvania coal mines and as one who still visits family members in the remains of a town that once ran on coal, I can attest to the fact that the feeling of this novel is right.

Hate them or love them, the characters are true. The devistation of being forgotten by the world is subtly present in each, and in each manifests itself differently. Drinking, running away, having sex, fighting, and reaching out to others are a few of the many ways in which they cope. Many of these elements make them outcasts to a more morally judgemental world, but their tragedies are, in the end, what tie them to each other, and in a strange way, create the community that keeps them going.

The audiobook was excellent. Highly recommended. ( )
  SandSing7 | Jul 12, 2010 |
This novel deeply moved me & I'm not sure I can put into words why that was the case, but I found myself drawn in from nearly the beginning and it kept getting better after that. O'Dell used just the right combination of history, flashback, foreshadowing, & character development to really suck me in. Beautifully written. I have two other O'Dell novels on my bookshelf that I greatly look forward to delving into after immensely enjoying this one. ( )
  indygo88 | Jan 11, 2009 |
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For my grandparents, Naomi Rebecca and the late H.E. Burkett, whose love for each other and their patch of Pennsylvania inspires and sustains me always.
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I finish my beer, crush the can out of habit, and toss it onto the floor of my truck, where it hits the other cans with a small clang.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Ivan Zoschenko, the local deputy and football legend, his pro career sidelined by a knee injury, spends a week preparing for an old teammate's release from prison. During the events of the week, Ivan reveals himself to be a man whose conscience is burdened by a secret that must be reckoned with.

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Coal Run is a community of ghosts and memories. After a mining explosion took the lives of so many men and transformed their families, the reverberations are still being felt in the generation of survivors thirty years later. Narrator Ivan Zoschenko, the local deputy and erstwhile football legend (The Great Ivan Z), his pro career sidelined by a knee injury, spends a week seemingly preparing for an old teammate's imminent release from prison. In doing so, Ivan introduces a rich cast of charcaters - his unexpectedly wise and comic former beauty queen sister, his former idol Val Claypool, and the young woman whose life he changed forver. And during the events of this week, Ivan confronts his demons and reveals himself to be a man whose conscience is burdened by a long held and shocking secret that must be reckoned with. (0-670-89995-X)
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