Coal Run

Coal Run

by Tawni O'Dell


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451215123
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 731,452
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Tawni O'Dell, a western Pennsylvania native, earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University. In addition to earning wages as a bankteller and a waitress, she put herself through college working as an exotic dancer jumping out of cakes at bachelor parties. A mother of two, she lives with her husband in Illinois. This is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Coal Run

By Tawni O'Dell

New American Library

Copyright © 2005 Tawni O'Dell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0451215125

Chapter One

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. From where I'm parked, a sparkling stream of piss seems to be coming directly from the filthy blue roof of a yellow, pink-shuttered plastic playhouse, as if the structure itself is filled with liquid and has suddenly sprung a precise and artful leak.

I keep a watch on it as I take another bite of my ham-salad sandwich from the Valley Dairy and reach over to the glove compartment where I keep Vicodin and my revolver. I take out the pills and a folded piece of paper. An old high-school football team photo that Art, the owner of Brownie's bar, took down from his wall of fame next to the men's room and gave to me and a road map fall out, along with a can of shaving cream and a folder filled with car accident reports.

The piece of paper is a fax from the state parole board. I open it and flatten it out on the seat beside me.

Reese Raynor's grainy, black-and-white face stares up at me with the stale eyes of someone who thinks he's always being told something he already knows. His teeth are clamped shut, his top lip drawn back in a smirking snarl that I would probably find cartoonish in its attempt to intimidate if I didn't know him personally.

He haschanged amazingly little during eighteen years in prison. Except for a paunchiness around his jowls and the loss of some of his hair, he could be the same kid I went to school with.

Beneath his mug shot is the standard information on the parolee, his crime, his sentence. The only item I care about is the release date and time: Tuesday, March 12, 8:00 A.M. Today is Sunday. It's 1:16 P.M., and I'm late picking up Jolene to go to Zo Craig's funeral.

Next I glance at our old team photo in a needless exercise of confirmation: 1980 Centresburg Flames. AA District Champions. One game shy of a state title. Myself in the front row: I. Zoschenko, cocaptain. Reese in the back row, on the far end, with his stare like two grimy nickels. Beside him his twin brother, Jess, the other cocaptain, his eyes glazed with the determined numbness of someone forced to share a bus seat with a ticking bomb.

A few weeks after the photo was taken, Reese was kicked off the team. Most of the guys couldn't believe he lasted as long as he did. He rarely attended practice. He never opened a playbook. He stalked off in disgust each time Coach Deets wheeled the blackboard into the locker room. For Reese every defensive play began and ended with the simple wisdom "A crippled man cannot score."

But Deets let all that slide. He would've let Genghis Khan play for us if he could block, and Reese could block. He had no finesse or speed, and a very limited understanding of the rules and objectives of the game, but no one could get past him.

What finally made Deets give him the boot was his performance off the field. The day after a game-even the games we won-members of the opposing team would find the headlights on their trucks bashed in, or all the windows on their houses blackened with dog shit, or a younger sister deposited on the front yard, drunk and deflowered.

Deets would have tolerated that, too, but the other teams had a problem with it.

I put the photo back in the glove compartment and unfold my deputy's map: a highly detailed blowup of the county. I've traced what I think will be Reese's path, highlighting all the bars along the way and making a looping detour near Altoona to accommodate a trip to The Tail Pipe, a favored strip joint in the area.

I'm assuming he'll head to Jess's house. He doesn't get along with his parents, and the rest of his family in the area is made up of sisters who are married to men who won't let him come near their homes. He and Jess were the oldest and the only boys in Chimp Raynor's tribe of pale, lip-licking girls with dark stares like cloaks who never spoke unless spoken to and never walked down the middle of a hallway. The two brothers were the meat of the family; the girls were the drippings.

My job has brought me to the home of one of the sisters. She's married with kids now. Her mother is on the premises as well, the ominous incubator of Jess and Reese. She's hiding in the gunshot-riddled Buick in the driveway.

I get out of my truck and close the door softly, trying to be quiet, and take a few careful steps up the driveway, but my boots crunch over the windshield glass sprayed everywhere. As the pisser comes into view, he turns to look at me but keeps himself aimed in the same direction, continuing to make an impressive arc over his wife's peacock green gazing ball and her lawn goose prematurely dressed for Easter in a bunny costume they're already selling out at the mall.

I see his gun leaning against the playhouse where he put it while his hands are otherwise occupied. A Winchester twelve-gauge. Chuck, our dispatcher, didn't say anything about its being a shotgun, but his wife probably didn't think to specify when she called. I reach into my pocket for a roll of Certs and pop one in my mouth to mask the scent of beer.

The man's face doesn't register any definable emotion or even recognition upon seeing me, but he raises a hand in greeting.

The gesture causes him to lurch slightly to one side as he's drying up to a trickle, and the goose and ball get spattered. I glance toward the front window of the house and see Bethany Raynor, now Bethany Blystone, and her two little girls peering through the curtains. She turns livid when she sees her goose get hit.

I take a few more steps toward him, passing by the car. Inside, his mother-in-law is hunkered down as far as she can go on the floor. There are fragments of glass in her teased, gray hair that look almost decorative when she cranes her neck up toward me out of the shadows and a plank of daylight falls across her face. The seat above her has been ripped open by the shotgun blasts.

"Are you all right?" I ask her.

She's trembling, but she's remarkably calm considering the circumstances. Forty-five years of marriage to Chimp have probably taught her to dole out hysteria sparingly. She manages to nod, then whispers to me, "Why are you all dressed up?"

She works at the Kwik-Fill on the north side of Centresburg where I buy my gas, and she always sees me in a deputy's shirt.

"Funeral," I whisper back.

"Zo Craig's?" she asks.

I nod.

"I saw her obituary in the paper," she goes on. "It was almost as big as Elizabeth Taylor's."

"I'm pretty sure Elizabeth Taylor is still alive."

"Oh, you know who I mean. The other one."

I look in Rick's direction again. He has a slight sway to him now.

"Right," I say. "I loved that movie she did. You know the one."

She nods again.

"Jess did Zo's mowing. Did you know that? She has a real nice John Deere tractor. He loves that tractor."

"I better go talk to Rick," I tell her. "You stay put."

I take a deep breath and start walking toward him. There's a strong smell of wet dirt beneath the acrid carbide smell still lingering around his gun and the stench of alcohol wafting off him. I'm not close enough to smell yet, but I swear I can see it hanging around him the way heat in the summertime makes the air ripple.

The dirt smell makes me think about Zo's impending funeral and the freshly dug plot that's waiting for her in the J&P cemetery next to her long-dead husband, one of the ninety-seven men who died in Gertie.

"How ya doing, Rick?" I call out amiably.

He fixes a glassy stare on me.

I move closer but still keep a fair distance away from him so I don't panic him. I have two objectives at this point: get hold of the shotgun and save the lawn ornaments from any future urination.

I motion at him to move toward me.

"Why don't you bring it over here, Rick? Your kids play around there, don't they?"

He's staring at me trying to place me, not in the present but in the past where most of us like to keep each other now that we've seen the future.

He finally drops his gaze and looks forlornly at the puddle he created next to an overturned doll stroller with a stuffed animal strapped inside it.

With his back toward me, I move quickly to the playhouse and pick up the shotgun.

He doesn't turn around. He raises his head and stares at the land behind his house beyond his yard.

The morning rain has stopped, and the sun is trying to make its presence known by shining dimly behind the wall of gray clouds that meets the rim of lavender-smudged hills with the finality of a lid. The weather's been pretty good lately. It's a shame it couldn't have been a little drier today. I know that wherever Zo's practical soul is right now, it will be upset over the thought of all the good shoes that are going to get caked with mud and the time spent cleaning them afterward.

"Ivan? Ivan Z?" Rick asks unsteadily, turning around to face me.

"Yeah, Rick. It's me."

A smile ticks briefly at the corners of his mouth like a small spasm.

"I heard you was back, but I didn't really believe it. Working for Jack, huh? How's it going?"

"Okay. How's it going with you?"

We both glance at his house, where the two little girls are still pressed against the window, but Bethany has disappeared. Their stares dart back and forth between their dad and me and the car with the shattered windshield where their grandmother is hiding. It occurs to me that they might not know if she's living or dead.

"They're closing Lorelei," Rick announces.

He stands in the middle of the yard and somehow manages to look uncomfortably stiff even though everything about him, from his dick hanging out of his jeans to his arms hanging at his sides to the drunken slackness of his unshaven cheeks, is limp.

"So I heard."

"I only got called back nine months ago. I was out of work for almost a year before that."

I hear the front door open and see Bethany, out of the corner of my eye, head for the car. She opens the door, and a sob catches in her throat. Her mother stumbles out, and they wrap their arms around each other. Rick watches them.

"There's only Marvella left now," he says, "and it's all longwall."

He shakes his head.

"I don't want to do it again. I can't do it again. Being unemployed."

The two women are crying. He notices and points accusingly at them.

"My mother-in-law has a steady job. She's been working at that goddamned Kwik-Fill since the beginning of time. She used to sell Slim Jims to Ben Fucking Franklin."

We watch the women help each other into the house. Bethany shoots him another scathing look, this time directed at his exposed manhood.

"And then there's Chimp. Worst miner ever lived. And he ends up working longer than anybody. Gets full retirement. Now he's even collecting black-lung benefits when nobody else can get them, and he doesn't even have it. You know he doesn't have it. He's got that shit you get from smoking all the time. What's it called? Empha-seeming?"


"Yeah. That's it. I swear, if he fell into a pile of shit, he'd come up with a golden turd in his mouth."

I think back to high school and the few times I visited Jess at home. He and his family lived in a peeling, sagging shell of a farmhouse with a pack of spittle-flinging dogs roaming in and out of the propped-open front door and had a yard covered with so much junk it looked like the house had vomited its contents.

If there were such things as golden turds, Chimp obviously didn't know what to do with them once he found them.

"Is that why you tried to kill your mother-in-law?" I ask him, getting back to the topic at hand. "Career envy?"

"I didn't try and kill her," he says.

He takes a few wobbling steps toward me, then stops suddenly like the ground has been yanked away.

"I was shooting at the car," he says once he finds his balance again. "I didn't want her to leave. That's all. I knew she was going to drive straight back to her house and call every goddamned old lady in the tristate area and tell them what a loser I am. What a goddamned fucking loser I am!" He screams it to the heavens.

The effort makes his knees buckle, and he drops onto the muddy grass. Once he hits, he starts crying. I don't know if it's out of misery or because he got caught in his zipper. He puts himself back in his pants and brings his hands up to cover his face, knocking off his company ball cap with J&P COAL stitched in frayed, faded gold across the front. Losing his hat makes him cry harder.

I squat down in front of him, and my bad knee sings out in pain. It's been almost twenty years and six operations since my accident. I can walk pretty well, but I will never again be able to squat; however, something in my mind and body won't allow this fact to register, and I'm still constantly attempting it the same way my mother continues to make mincemeat pies for Christmas every year, even though my dad was the only one in our family who liked them.

I put my hands on Rick's shoulders. He stops sobbing for a moment, and understanding briefly skates across his dull gaze.

"You gonna arrest me?" he asks.

"I'm going to take your gun for a while. Do you have any more in the house?"

"Two rifles."

"I'm going to take those, too."

I brace his shotgun against the ground and use it as a crutch to help me get back to a standing position.

"Why don't you just stay here for a minute?" I instruct him, needlessly.

He's already fallen over, sprawled out on his stomach, with his eyes closed, mumbling to himself. I head for the house and knock on the front door.

Bethany answers. She's not happy to see me even though she's the one who called and asked me to come here.

She stares at me, courteously defiant. She's put on about sixty pounds of flesh and attitude since high school.

I try picturing her young self without the extra weight, with her hair feathered like Farrah's, wearing Chic jeans instead of the orange stretch pants she's wearing now, worn shiny at the knees, along with a voluminous thigh-length sweatshirt created by retailers for the sole purpose of concealing various types of female physical hell.

"How's your mother?" I ask.

"She's fine. A little shaken up is all. She's lying down."

"Your husband says he wasn't trying to kill her. He was trying to prevent her from leaving."

"Yeah," she says. "I told her to just sit down and let him cool off, but she had a hair appointment. Now she's missed it anyway."

Behind her is a room that belongs to a woman who doesn't put housekeeping high on her list of things to do.


Excerpted from Coal Run by Tawni O'Dell Copyright © 2005 by Tawni O'Dell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Coal Run

Tawni O'Dell's astonishing debut novel, Back Roads, received widespread critical acclaim for its visceral portrayal of a family torn apart by violence. In her much anticipated second novel, Coal Run, O'Dell returns to the ravaged mining towns of western Pennsylvania, this time to the homecoming of a former small-town football hero, Ivan Zoschenko.

The Great Ivan Z was a rising star when an accident left his knee shattered and his future uncertain. After decamping to Florida, where he spent sixteen liquor-filled years hiding from his past, Ivan is reluctantly drawn back to his hometown of Coal Run by the news of a former teammate's release from prison.

A once prosperous mining town, Coal Run—like Ivan—is a shadow of its former self and haunted by tragic memories. When Ivan was just six years old, Gertie, the town's largest mine, exploded, burying in its tunnels nearly every man in town, including his own father, grandfather, and uncle. Though Gertie has long since ceased to function, the town is still very much defined by its former presence: each family descends from miners, most of them killed in the blast.

Despite Ivan's bad knee, he is given the job of local deputy, a nod to his former glory. He perfunctorily fulfills his duty, though often making exceptions to the law and sobriety. But in the days leading up to Reese's return from prison, Ivan can no longer repress the secret history of violence and irresponsibility that binds him to Reese—and to Reese's wife, who remains comatose after the beating that led to his incarceration.

When Ivan attends the funeral of Zo, a family friend and elderly town figure, he encounters Val—a scarred Vietnam veteran, former neighbor, and childhood hero of Ivan's—who is making his own belated homecoming. Reflecting on the boy he once was and the man he should have become, Ivan is tortured by memories of his Ukrainian immigrant father, his own youthful arrogance, and the still lingering consequences of his actions.

Ivan realizes that he must first reconcile his past in order to forge a path toward a better future, ultimately struggling with whether a man's worth is intrinsic to his person or is instead the sum of his actions—whether through the acceptance of duty and responsibility, however belatedly, he might atone for his past. Rich in heart and the casual, indiscriminate brutality of both man and land, Coal Run is above all a story of redemption and healing, the acceptance of one's shortcomings, and the infinite hopefulness of a new future.



Tawni O'Dell's debut novel, Back Roads, was a selection of Oprah's Book Club. A western Pennsylvania native, she earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University. In addition to earning wages as a bankteller and a waitress, she put herself through college working as an exotic dancer jumping out of cakes at bachelor parties. A mother of two, she lives with her husband in Illinois. Coal Run is her second novel.


Q. Your first novel, Back Roads, received widespread critical acclaim and was chosen as a selection for Oprah's Book Club. How did this attention affect you and the writing of your second novel?

A. Success with a first novel can be a paralyzing force when you sit down to write your follow-up novel. There's a tremendous amount of pressure put on you to write something "even better." I had myself convinced that if I didn't write a book equally as successful as Back Roads—both critically and commercially—I would be a failure.

I also had to deal with feelings of "I don't deserve to be a bestselling author" because my success in that regard came directly from being an Oprah pick. I didn't feel that my book had earned its success. I had just been very, very lucky in that Oprah Winfrey really liked it.

Before Back Roads was published, I was only writing for myself and my characters. I wanted to be published and have readers, but I didn't truly understand what that would mean in regard to how I would start to second-guess my work. Once you're published, your books become public domain, and everyone from editors and reviewers to the checkout clerk at your local Wal-Mart and your son's soccer coach has an opinion about them, and you find yourself beginning to write what you think all these other people want instead of writing what you know your characters want. I was eventually able to silence all those exterior voices, but it was a tough process.

Q. Both of your novels are set in working-class coal-mining towns of rural Pennsylvania. In Coal Run, especially, the land is very much a character—its simmering heat and capacity for undiscriminating violence. What is it about this area that fascinates you as a writer?

A. I'm fascinated by the contrasts in the landscape and the innate conflicts that arise because of them and spill over into the lives of the people who live here.

This is a place of great natural beauty but also a place marred by man's industrial ugliness. It's a place where nature provided a livelihood, but it was a livelihood that killed and maimed. The mountains here are not young and jagged and spectacular: they've been worn down by time; they've been invaded by the coal-mining industry; they've been pockmarked with depressed, blue-collar towns and abandoned mines and factories. Yet there's a pride and a calm and a wisdom to them that only comes with age and survival. Looking at them, you're filled with a sense of security and dependability. I think the land shares many characteristics with the people and has played a big role in forming their personalities and fatalist outlook on life.

Q. Both of your novels are written from a male perspective, specifically that of a man learning to accept himself as an adult. What challenges do you find in writing from a male perspective?

A. I find writing from a male perspective to be relatively easy. For me, it's the ultimate adventure in playing make-believe. I enjoy trying to put myself inside the mind of a man and figuring out how he looks at the world and what he feels is required of him and what he's willing to give. I've been fortunate in that what I perceive to be a male point of view has turned out to be fairly accurate according to the men who have read my books.

Ironically, I have a much harder time writing female characters. I'm not sure why exactly. It may be that for me, writing fiction is an exercise in using my imagination and, being female myself, I find female characters to sometimes be too familiar.

Q.The question of identity plagues Ivan. He is equally uncomfortable being known as a football hero, a son of a Ukrainian immigrant, an uncle, and a father. How much choice do you feel a person has in determining his or her identity? Is it unchangeable, like a person's birthplace, only to be accepted? Or is it the result of a series of choices?

A. I think a person's identity is greatly determined by factors beyond his or her control, such as birthplace, ethnicity, gender, economic class, educational opportunities. The type of parents a person has is one of the most important forces behind a person's identity because this determines how he or she will be raised. What a person chooses to do with that identity and what type of person he chooses to become is up to him to a point. The choices he will make in his life and the amount of commitment he will give to those choices will be influenced by how he responds to his own identity. This is what I find fascinating about human nature. Two people can have the same basic identity—such as Ivan and Jess in Coal Run—but make different choices and react to the same situations in entirely different ways. How much of this is determined by the shackles of their "identity" and how much is done of their own free will? I love to write about this conflict in all of us.

Q.You have a wonderful way of writing from a child's perspective, which can be a very difficult thing to do. In both children and teenagers, you expertly capture their innocence and frustrations, and create for them honest, distinct voices that are adorable without ever being cloying. They also add levity to the novel. Do you find it easy or hard to write in a child's voice? What is it about them that attracts you to them as characters?

A. I find it easy to write in a child's voice. I think one of the reasons is that I have two children and spend a lot of time trying to assess the world through their eyes. I also like kids. I like talking to them and hearing what they have to say. I try to understand them and respect their opinions before I send them to their rooms.

Children are honest. I don't mean to say that they don't sometimes tell white lies, but even their lies, in a sense, are honest. They're straightforward. You understand why they tell them. They don't have hidden agendas like many adults do. And they're not disillusioned yet. They possess a kind of optimism that adults simply don't have despite the fact that children have a tremendous amount of pressure put on them and have to deal with many fears and dangers that previous generations were spared.

This optimism and honesty are two of the reasons why I like to use them as characters. If I have an adult character who is mired in adult emotions and experiences, I can let a child take a look at that same situation, and by interpreting what he sees with an unfinished mind and unjaded heart, the child can bring about a whole new perspective.

Q. How important do you think a father figure is in a boy's life? Do you think society creates unfair expectations for the modern man?

A. A father figure is extremely important in a boy's life and a girl's life. I think the problem we're facing nowadays is defining what role a father is supposed to play. I think it's important that a father be a figure of respect and authority, and in order to do this, there has to be some element of emotional distance.

Now fathers are supposed to be more involved in their children's lives, but this is also done at the risk of compromising this distance. Instead of the role of father evolving, it seems as if men are floundering around trying to imitate the roles of mother or pal, which is frustrating for everyone.

A man's role in society is in a similar crisis. Traditionally men have been providers and protectors. Now they're being told that women can also provide for themselves and the family, and that the things we need protection from are too huge and oftentimes unfathomable for a mere man alone to have any power over.

It's been difficult for both men and women to cope with the changes that have come along with our quest for sexual equality, but on some level, I feel that women have adapted better to these changes than men have. We were told we were supposed to do more and be more, which is difficult but at least straightforward. Men were told they should do less of what they're used to doing and give more of what they don't know how to give. I think many of them just feel lost.

Q. In many ways, Coal Run, a land ravaged by tragedy and loss, reflects our post-9/11 world. Did global events influence your writing?

A. I began writing my first draft of Coal Run well before 9/11, so I don't think those events shaped my writing, but possibly they made my novel and the world of Coal Run more relevant and comprehensible to the rest of America.

Our lives changed dramatically after 9/11 in that we never feel completely safe anymore. Our sense of security has been shattered. We've had to adapt to the idea that just going about our daily routines can end up being deadly. This is how mining communities have always lived. Every shift when a coal miner went off to work, he and his family had to live with the knowledge that he might not be home again.

Another similarity is that the forces behind these cataclysmic events are forces that are beyond our control. We can't control terrorism, and miners can't control the forces of nature they have to deal with when they are miles beneath the earth's surface.

Q. What writers have influenced you the most? What have you been reading lately?

A. If I had to pick one literary idol, it would be Flannery O'Connor. Many other Southern writers have influenced me, such as Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, William Styron, and Robert Penn Warren. J. D. Salinger has had a great impact on my writing. Also John Irving and Richard Russo.

I just finished reading Victim by Gary Kinder. It's a nonfiction account of a multiple murder committed in Utah in the seventies told from the perspective of one of the survivors and his family. Many people have compared it to Capote's In Cold Blood. It's incredibly powerful. Everyone should read this book. I also recently read Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGary Morris; the biography Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams by Lyle Leverich; Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov, a collection of stories about life in the Soviet labor camps of Kolyma in northeastern Siberia; and Tumbling by Diane McKinney-Whetstone. I highly recommend all of them.

Q. What are you writing next?

A. I'm working on my next novel.


  • Lost identity is a recurring theme in this book, both locally, in the Pennsylvania boys' forgetting their hometowns, and in a larger sense, in Americans' forgetting their ethnic identities. From tales of Magadan to the portrait of Volodymyr that sits above the Zoschenko dinner table, allusions to Ivan's father's former life in Ukraine and Russia are made throughout the novel. Discuss what Ivan's heritage means to him.
  • The land of Coal Run is inexplicably, irrevocably part of each character, drawing back those who leave it. Discuss each of the very different homecomings of the book—those of Val, Reese Raynor, Ivan, and John Harris. What is it that ties each character to the town?
  • Compare Ivan as a little boy to Ivan as the narrator of the novel. How does his voice change? How are his relationships to Val and Eb similar?
  • Ivan loses his father, uncle, and grandfather in the Gertie mine explosion and Val to the Vietnam War, then denies the existence of his own son. None of Jolene's three sons have any kind of relationship with their fathers. Discuss the lack of male role models and father figures throughout the book. How does this affect the men of each generation?
  • The loss of Ivan's knee, his heroic self, and his chance to forever leave Coal Run all occur at Gertie. Discuss the significance of his choice to self-destruct at that location.
  • The burning land of Coal Run, with its simmering unstoppable fires beneath the surface, literally sucks down people, homes, and objects to its fiery depths. The festering rage of each character similarly manifests itself with violence. Discuss how the violence and anger of Bobbie, Reese, and Ivan differ.
  • Discuss the role of women in this town that is defined by mining, a very male profession. Ivan's mother, his sister Jolene, Zo—are they better at coping with tragedy? Are they stronger?
  • In many ways Zo and Dr. Ed mastermind the fates of several of the characters, guiding their fates, yet without reprimand or condemnation. Dr. Ed anonymously sends the clipping to Ivan. Zo leaves her home to Jolene and her grandson, forever tying Randy to Coal Run. Discuss the silent but strong (and effective) techniques of this generation.
  • Ivan's father is able to separate the profession of coal mining from the fact that he learned it while in Siberia at a work camp. Reese, though an abusive husband and a murderer, at one time behaved honorably by marrying Crystal when Ivan would not. But Ivan cannot separate his identity as a football hero and town figure from who he is inside as a person. Discuss how profession and the ability to provide shape male identity. How is male identity tied to duty?
  • The demons of the past haunt several characters, most notably Ivan. How does the past literally and figuratively cripple him and prevent him from embarking on a future of any kind?
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    Coal Run 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
    sunshine747 More than 1 year ago
    I just finished this book and once again was so sad to let go of the characters. It's ten to midnight and I am desperate for another O'Dell novel. I just found her latest and only novel of hers I have yet to read. It's downloading as I type. Coal Run and Backroads were more intense than Sister Mine. I'm starting "Fiery Beasts" tonight. You won't be let down with this author. Happy reading!
    Mrs_Delaney_in_FL More than 1 year ago
    Coal Run was a well paced, quick read. Honest portrayal of coal mining communities and what happens when disaster strikes and/or the jobs run out. Strong supporting characters through out the novel... favorites were Dr. Ed and Val. A bit of an unfair and inaccurate description of Florida, per this native Floridian... I can't see our tourism board contacting the author for a glowing recommendation.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I read the first book,back roads and loved it.Now i have read coal run and love this one too. Tawni O'Dell is a great story teller and i cant wait to read her next book.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I've passed this book on to a lot of people. The author is a master at description. You really feel like you've stepped into a small town when you read this book. I recommend Coal Run to anyone looking to pick up a book he won't be able to put down.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This is a beautiful book. The author does such a wonderful job the way she intertwines the lives of her characters throughout the book. The story is compelling and I couldn't put it down because I HAD TO KNOW what was going to happen. The situations were very believable and the author doesn't always take the easy way out. I enjoyed the author's first book, but I loved this one!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Tawni O'Dell tunnels deep into her characters so that they seem to be walking right off the pages. The terrain here, as in her superlative 'Back Roads', is Pennsylvania--and it's country that's as alive as her characters. Ivan Zoschenko comes home around the same time a former teammate is about to be released from prison. Memories unravel, secrets come to light, people confront each other--and themselves. The book is flatout brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    If there were a 4 1/2 star rating I would have gone with that instead of just a 4- this is a great read! Coal Run is the kind of book I regret finishing because I feel a sense of missing the characters as soon as the book is closed.
    indygo88 on LibraryThing 29 days ago
    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.
    JFBallenger on LibraryThing 29 days ago
    I felt this book was a big step forward from her promising first novel Backroads. As with Backroads, the strength of Coal Run is the deep understanding and compassion O'Dell has for the struggles of her characters and the hard-scrabble communities in Western Pennsylvania coal country that they come from. But in this book, O'Dell develops much deeper, and to me at least, more appealing themes of collective memory, courage and redemption. Although the ending felt to me just a bit abrupt and tidy, this book rewards with much beauty and wisdom.
    SandSing7 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    B & N will you please delete these stupid kits and their dumb clans and their idiot stories from this review page???
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was better then the first one it still seems a little rushed
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    It was a little short and seemed you didnt take your time. I liked the "youngun"part though. I cant wait to see what happens next! Your story is getting interesting.
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    " I did it I caught the mouse " said Coalpaw excitedley . " Shh , " mewed his mentor " , or youll scare all the prey to Riverclan and back . " Sorry " he said . " Great catch Coalpaw " said Lillypaw . " Thanks " mewed Coalpaw . After Coalpaw caught the mouse they went back to camp . " Flowerpelt I caught my first piece of prey " Coalpaw said to his mother . " Great job honey now go giv it to Mossclaw " she said . Mossclaw had been a brave warrior and helped overthrow their evil former leader Blackwing who was banished from the clans . Mossclaw had became an elder after that . " Heres a mouse l caught Mossclaw " said Coalpaw . " Well thank u " mewed Mossclaw . " Could u change my bedding for me youngun " Mossclaw said . " Ok " he said . Coalpaw went to lake and gathered some moss when he smelled something like squirrel blood . He ran to the scent and scented a Windclan cat on the Thunderclan side of the border . A Windclan cat has killed a squirrel on Thunderclan territory . He raced back to camp to tell Owlstar . " Owlstar Windclan killed Thunderclan prey on our territory " !! " What !!" . " Windclan killed Thunderclan prey in Thunderclan territory . Where did u find this ? " the brown she-cat said . " Near the lake " said Coalpaw . ~ End of chapter two .