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Coal Run Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Length: 388 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews Review

A poignant tale of a once-proud Pennsylvania coal town destroyed by a mining disaster, Tawni O'Dell's second novel, Coal Run, follows its wounded inhabitants as they try to come to terms with what is gone and what remains. "The Great Ivan Z"--Ivan Zoschenko--is a mythical football hero who, after being injured on the eve of a promising professional career, heads for Florida (and the bottom of the bottle) for a decade before limping back to Coal Run and getting a job as deputy sheriff. The novel spans a week's time, but recollections and suppositions of the characters add depth; the book's an engrossing adventure in self-redemption and acceptance.

Multiple plot lines abound: Ivan keenly awaits the release from prison of his teammate, Reese Raynor, who beat his wife into a coma and whom Ivan visits regularly in the hospital; Reese's brother and his family struggle with many kids, little money and fewer prospects; Ivan's boyhood hero, Val, a Vietnam veteran who likewise spent years elsewhere, returns with eyes for Ivan's sister, a waitress, former beauty queen, and single mom. And, of course, there's a love interest. Stood up by her date, Ivan contemplates: "What could possibly be more important than sitting across a table from this woman and watching her put things in her mouth? I wonder as I take a seat." Despite somewhat predictable plot elements, O'Dell has the benefit of so many different story lines and characters to choose from that the novel is well-paced and allows her powers of observation to shine. For example, Ivan notes: "I need a drink. I'm not embarrassed or apologetic about the craving. Needing a drink isn't any worse than needing to collect Beanie Babies. I'd rather be a drunk than a moron."

Coal Run is a pitch-perfect story of a town's rediscovery that the best thing about it is its people and their ability to survive and retain a sense of pride, even after its identity and many lives were lost. --Michael Ferch

From Publishers Weekly

O'Dell (Back Roads) explores the dynamics of a tiny Pennsylvania coal-mining town in her probing, heartbreaking second novel, which centers on the fortunes of former college football hero Ivan Zoschenko. The novel literally opens with a bang in a flashback that recalls the tragic underground explosion that took the life of Zoschenko's father and killed 96 other men from Coal Run. Some 15 years later, just after Zoschenko is drafted by the Chicago Bears, his knee is crushed in an accident in the same mines. His subsequent fall from grace is long and hard; he moves to Florida, hits the bars and works as an exterminator. He returns home only when he hears that Reese Raynor, a former schoolmate who beat his wife, Crystal, into a coma, is being released from prison. Despite his drinking problem, Zoschenko is hired as a deputy by the local sheriff, getting back in touch with his gorgeous sister, a single mom and career waitress; his boyhood hero, now a reclusive Vietnam vet; Reese's troubled twin brother, Jesse; and Crystal, who is still comatose and reminds Zoschenko of a shameful incident in his past. That past is linked to Reese Raynor's, and the novel builds to the inevitable brutal collision of the two men. O'Dell's portrait of Zoschenko is deep and penetrating, but even more moving is her portrayal of the coal-town community. Ravaged by disaster and callous corporate treatment, the citizens of Coal Run still can't imagine any other life. As Zoschenko puts it, "Long before [the mine] became the site of so much death, it had been a source of life for all of us. For me it was the closest thing I had to God." Though it occasionally flirts with sentimentality, this is a fierce, sharply drawn and richly sympathetic tribute to working-class America.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1393 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; Reprint edition (June 7, 2005)
  • Publication Date: June 7, 2005
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,471 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The other five-star reviews have this book pegged. It is a terrific, consuming, colorful, rich read. I picked it up and read it in less than 24 hours, just two days after finishing O'Dell's first novel, "Back Roads" in the same, short span. Well done!

Compared to her wonderful first effort, "Coal Run" surfaces even more details about the struggle for life in the economic ruins of former coal country. There is more humor, love, and hope than in her much darker, first novel. My initial impression of her leading male character, based on "Back Roads" and now in "Coal Run" is that she can really slip into the skin of a young male protagonist. Again, that DeMille-like sense of disturbed humor, focusing on alcohol, sex and their myriad interactions, spills across the pages. You laugh along with the crippled former All-American as he works through the week where his nemisis is realeased from prison and cry at the memories of coal mine explosions, fire and death.

My personal preference -- perhaps an easier, happier, simpler way out, but I'm a reader, not an author -- would have been for some more closure. I had another person in mind to receive the prized two hundrd acres from Flo's will. And I had another person in mind to be carried out of the house under the sheet in the last chapter. And while Ivan does find a form of closure with one deep, personal part of his life, I finished the book wondering about what would become of the young doctor, the surprisingly heroic lawyer, and the resurrected football star. Maybe there is a sequel in this. I sure hope so, and not in five years. I hope the author's personal problems are behind her. Check
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Format: Hardcover
It may not be true that you can never go home again. Literature, as in life, is full of homecomings. What is always interesting is a person's motivation for returning home after a long absence, especially the motivation of a person who has deliberately distanced themselves from their hometown and past. What drove them away in the first place and what draws them back, and why now? What and where is home, really? These are questions explored in Tawni O'Dell's wonderful new novel, COAL RUN.

COAL RUN is the story of a small mining town, its inhabitants, its pride and shame, its tragic past and its hope for the future, all exemplified by the narrator, Ivan Zoschenko. Ivan, the town's most famous export, has returned home many years after leaving to play college and professional football. After a career-ending injury he moved to Florida hoping to leave his home and memories behind him. Ivan was one of the many residents who lost loved ones in a mining accident in 1967. But it wasn't really the loss of his father and other relatives that drove him away. Ivan carries a great and dark secret, and his return is partially inspired by the release from prison of Reese Raynor, a former teammate.

Ivan is not the only one coming home; his childhood hero, Val Claypool, has returned as well. As Ivan spends a week in the western Pennsylvanian town he thought he'd never live in again, he is confronted by all the hurt in his entire past and by the damage he feels he must inflict on another.

Why does Ivan want to kill Reese? Why has Val returned? What is Ivan's connection to the woman lying in a coma in a local nursing home? And who else knows Ivan's secret?
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Format: Hardcover
Very well written, very thought-provoking. Interesting that it's written by a woman but the narrator character is a tough guy. Recommend this highly.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book immensely. This was my first read by Ms. O'Dell, but definitely not my last. The story is set in a western Pennsylvania mining town, Coal Run, and begins with a very young Ivan Zoschensky telling us about the day Gertie blew...the mine where his father and 96 other townsmen were working when it exploded.

Fast forward to present day, the 'Great Ivan Z.' has returned to the small town after being away for many years. Once an exceptional football player, and the town's hero, he plays no more do to an accident that shattered his knee. But there's a reason Ivan has returned. His old teammate Reese Raynor will being getting out of prison soon. He was put there for beating his wife Crystal into a coma, and reducing her to a vegetative state. Ivan feels he has some unfinished business to take care of, but he's also got a very big secret that he's trying to come to terms with.

This storyline alone is enough to keep the reader going, but there plenty of side stories that are just as interesting, and include some great characters. Jolene, Ivan's sister, who has three children from three different fathers, but never married, the Raynor clan, Dr. Ed, the town Doc who meddles in everyone's lives for their own well being, and even the town itself, which plays an important part. I thought it was really interesting what ended up being the fate of Coal Run.

I definitely recommend this read, and am so glad I bought it. Ms. O'Dell's way of storytelling makes you feel like you're right there in the hills of western Pennsylvania. I'm absolutely going to pick up 'Back Roads'. I'm confident it'll be just as entertaining as Coal Run was.
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