Posted by: Andrea | May 8, 2008

Book Review: Coal Run

I was very pleasantly surprised when I recently read Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell. This was another one that’s been sitting on my shelf for awhile and I knew next to nothing about it. It’s the story of Ivan Zoschenko, ‘the great Ivan Z’ – a former football star, who has returned to his hometown of Coal Run after a 25 year absence. Coal Run is a mainly deserted mining town and is also the location of a mining disaster that killed Ivan’s father and 95 other men when he was a little boy. There are many reasons Ivan stayed away from home for so long and many others that finally brought him back. This book isn’t complicated or confusing or filled with philosophical or political themes. But it is very engaging and I enjoyed it very much for its simplicity. I’d been reading quite a few dense books in the past month and this one felt almost like a breath of fresh air. The characters are very well constructed and Coal Run is a believable picture of a small town that is close to losing its big industry. I was surprised by how effectively she drew me in with such simple language and over only a very few pages. Her description of the mine disaster brought tears to my eyes and at that point I knew very little about any of the characters involved. O’Dell did a very good job of revealing the histories of the different characters throughout the book. Everything wasn’t revealed at once. The characters were slowly unveiled in ways that were intriguing without feeling gimmicky. The only way this book let itself down was the inclusion of a completely one dimensional love interest character for Ivan. I can’t figure out any reason for her to be included or even an explanation of her behaviour that makes any sense. She’s basically described as a sexy doctor with great legs who wears miniskirts to work, who must be intelligent because she’s a doctor. The book would have been a better one without this particular storyline, but I’ll forgive it for this one fault. Definitely recommended, particularly for people who enjoy books about small town America.



  1. Well, now I have another book to add to my list of “read soon” selections. I’m enjoying the book reviews, I always love to know what other people are reading.

  2. Well I wasn’t kidding when I say I read a lot! I have another one coming up soon, hopefully i’ll get that posted in the next day or two. But I agree, I find it very interesting seeing what other people are reading, especially recommendations. At least then I know what has a good chance of being a worthwhile read!

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