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Coal Run

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  1,655 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews

With her eagerly awaited second novel, Tawni O'Dell takes readers back to the coal-mining country of western Pennsylvania. Set in a town ravaged and haunted by a mine explosion that took the lives of 96 men, Coal Run explores the life of local deputy and erstwhile football legend, "The Great Ivan Z.," as he prepares for a former teammate's imminent release from prison. As

Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 7th 2005 by NAL (first published June 17th 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jason Koivu
Oct 24, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
This is the book that broke my desire to be a part of the local book club scene.

"Book club scene" sounds so hip, doesn't it? Well, the only thing hip about the book club I was involved in was the talk about broken hips the old ladies in the group kept on about. If I had to guess at the median age of the members, I'd say it was somewhere around 105 years old.

But I digress...

Dangerously close to a romance novel at times, Tawni O'Dell's Coal Run was still enjoyable enough for me not to hate mysel
Rebecca McNutt
Coal Run takes its readers to a small Pennsylvanian mining community ravaged from a disaster that took the lives of almost a hundred coal miners. O' Dell's book not only shows the tangled lives of some rural people, but it also shows just how hard an accident can hit a town and how the aftershock can drag down even the people you least suspect, even many years later.
Asghar Abbas
Dec 28, 2015 Asghar Abbas rated it really liked it
It wasn't as good as her first published novel but let's be fair what can possibly top that ?
Nonetheless, this still is a good book by a great writer.
On a side note: This woman is my hero, 0'Dell writes like a writer and can be an inspiration to all genders. Love her style and work. And her intelligence.
A good enough follow up to Back Roads.
An engaging and rewarding novel covering the lingering impact on a rural Pennsylvania community of a coal mining disaster and the pathways to recovery that people take. Ivan Z. lost his Ukrainian immigrant father in the mine explosion which killed nearly 100 others. His success as a football hero in school and college was cut short by an accident that damaged his leg, and now, after a 15 year interlude in Florida, he returns to the town of Coal Run where he takes a position as a deputy sheriff. ...more
Jun 14, 2008 Rita rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I didn't finish it. Her writing is really good, there are some excellent little gems of prose in what I read. But...

It lacked a lot of the luster of Backroads, and I didn't like the protagonist as much as in Sister Mine. I thought this guy was an ass, actually.

I also am finding it hard to forgive the author's opinions about female bodies. In Backroads there were some nasty things said about aging women who didn't fight the process tooth and nail, but since it was a sixteen year-old boy saying i
Feb 04, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
This was the second Tawni O'Dell novel I read, and I found it a bit tedious. Again, I shouldn't say read, as I actually listened to the audio book, and I found myself getting frustrated with the protagonist - he was a boor, and I couldn't understand why his "love interest" was interested in him at all. The story advanced at a snail's pace, the protagonist hinted at his past sins but it took forever to get to them, and then I'm not really sure he was redeemed at all by the story's end. If you ...more
Imane El Marzouki
Ivan ! Ivan!
This book is definitely not as good as her first one (Back Roads),but still she is capable of morphing boring stories into something funny and sad at the same time.I was not interested in the story as much as I was eager to discover Tawni's writing again! She is indeed a very good writer and she is able to develop numerous characters perfectly. I do not regret reading this book. In fact , it was as if Ivan was a person I've known very well.
Paul Haspel
Feb 04, 2012 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing
Any discussion of Tawni O'Dell's novel Coal Run should begin with the novel's setting -- one that captures well the slow-motion tragedy that has enfolded many communities of America's Rust Belt. O'Dell's Coal Run, Pennsylvania, is an industrial ghost town that has been twice cursed. The first of Coal Run's tragedies occurred in 1967, when the J & P Coal Company Mine No. 9, the "Gertie" mine, blew up, killing 97 miners, including the father of the novel's protagonist, Ivan Zoschenko. The seco ...more
Apr 08, 2009 Louise rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
After reading O'Dell's first novel (Back Roads) and finding it extremely good, I was somewhat disappointed at her second attempt. The story wasn't that bad however, lacked 'substance' and felt like saying 'What IS the point to this story?'

From back cover:

"With her eagerly awaited second novel, COAL RUN, O'Dell takes us back to the coal mining country of western Pennsylvania, the territory she renders with striking authenticity. In a town haunted by a deadly mine explosion three decades earlier,
Alesha Leveritt
Jul 17, 2015 Alesha Leveritt rated it it was ok
Yawn... With a book that had a massive mine explosion, a professional athletic career wrecked by injury, a Vietnam veteran, an abused woman whose abuser was released, and the list goes on.... This book was just...dull...

The Good - Probably my favorite part of the story occurred in the beginning, centering around the mine explosion. It had a sense of place and time which was enjoyable...and the characters hadn't had time to develop into selfish egotistical pigs.

The Eh - Too much. Just too much. I
Feb 26, 2015 Daria rated it liked it
I enjoyed "Back Roads" very much and was excited to see another Tawni O'Dell novel on my library shelf. "Coal Run" is as atmospheric as the last. I could visualize the entire small, run-down Pennsylvania town. I know all the heart-of-gold, just trying to make the best of a hard life people. Coal Run was devastated by a mining accident that left most of the men in town in a casket or buried under ground. The way in which the widows and children move on with their lives is a secondary theme in the ...more
Jun 21, 2009 LadyCalico rated it really liked it
I'm a coal miner's daughter from a small Western PA coal town (Barnesboro, PA) and feel like my hometown was among the parts that make up the composite fictional towns in this story. Since it is so rare that anyone writes about the kind of place where I grew up and the kind of people I knew, of course, I am going to love this book. I think I would have enjoyed this novel even if I were from Alabama, but I am too biased to be sure. My big complaint is that she grossly overstated the importance of ...more
May 19, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
Wow. This novel has it all, mystery and intrigue and the overwhelming desire to punch someone in the face and hug them to make them feel better all at the same time. Small towns have long histories and even long memories, you can leave but you are never gone and sometimes it is just best to come back and clean up your own mess and realize that everyone would have supported you no matter what.
Karyn Niedert
I enjoyed this book in spite of the main character, Ivan Z. He seemed like a dumb high school jock in perpetual arrested development. Author Tawni O'Dell did give his character a tremendous arc of learning, to bring readers from beginning to end with great satisfaction for this character.
Dec 16, 2009 Michelle rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: absolutely no one I like
Shelves: audiobooks
Chose this book because it's based in a PA coal town and has references to State College/PSU (my hometown). I should've known nothing good could've come from an author named Tawni. This is unredeemable dreck.
Betsy Burrows
I loved this book! I love the way Tawni O'Dell writes... It's so hard to put one of her books down once you pick it up. I love her quirky characters, they seem so real to me. Thank you Marcie Grau for reminding me of her books. Now I will have to find some more!
Dec 29, 2010 Gay rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful web of characters. With a male protagonist, it's hard to believe the author is female. One of those books you expect to be a movie, so imagine the actors/actresses as you read. Can't wait to read another O'Dell. Fortunately there are three others.
Jul 21, 2009 Rusane rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Good story about coming to terms with mistakes made in life. I also really liked the main character, Ivan, even though he had made some pretty bad decisions in his younger life. Don't know why, but liked him.
Mar 30, 2016 Colleen rated it really liked it
Another great one by Tawni O'Dell. Her stories are very familiar yet distinct and original. I recommend them all. They all have a bit of drama and a bit of humor.
Nov 21, 2016 Sher rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a much better read than Fragile Beasts but not quite as good as Back Roads. Tawni O'Dell is really talented when it comes to making you feel something for her characters- whether its empathy or anger or sadness... Enjoyed this book and hope I will enjoy more by her as well!
Oct 25, 2016 Courtney rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, borrowed
This wasn't her best novel set in coal country: there wasn't a very strong plot and there were lots of characters that popped up with quick resolution.
Jan 23, 2015 Soho_Black rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, owned-books
Tawni O'Dell's debut novel, "Back Roads", is possibly one of the greatest books I have ever read. No matter how often I return to the pages, I always find myself lost in them, drawn into a world that, despite having no real comprehension of it, I become completely involved with and caught up in.

Unfortunately, despite this novel being championed by no lesser name than Oprah Winfrey, the author seemingly vanished afterwards and nothing happened. Admittedly she wasn't as well received in the UK, po
Maggie Bryan
Oct 02, 2016 Maggie Bryan rated it it was amazing
A good read.
Janis Harrington
Jul 27, 2014 Janis Harrington rated it really liked it
After reading others' reviews, I apparently need to read Back Roads, O'Dell's first book because many think Coal Run, her second, does not equal the overall effect of her first.

One of my favorite moments in the book comes when Ivan's 6 year old nephew, Everett Craig, buys a dinner at an auction with the local football hero, "the great Ivan Z" so they, his uncle and he, can spend more time together. Eb talks of his absentee father: "My dad wears a tie now, he tells me, staring at the chocolate st
Rodney Farrell Sr
Jun 08, 2013 Rodney Farrell Sr rated it liked it
COAL RUN is a fictional town in the Western Pennsylvania coal region. The characters, though fictional as well, are true denizens of the coal country living their entire lives connected to coal mining. I am rather familiar with this region and have known persons that could very well serve as models for O’Dell as she crafts the plot and its actors. The backdrop of coal mining and the male relationships of father, son, brother, friend, husband or lover those are all very true in the life of the ...more
Jul 03, 2010 Adna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-written
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 11, 2010 Tawny rated it it was ok
I don't really understand the whole premise of the book. I read the whole thing, but maybe it was all really lost on me. I thought the whole Val story line was going to produce more than it did. Ivan, the high school football star that goes to Penn and makes it big but blows his knee right after he signs with the Bears, then ends up just really drinking and coming back to Coal Run. To the mining town that took his father and many others of the towns sons and fathers, and has since then destroys ...more
Nov 07, 2012 Victoria rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-fic, family
After the success of her first novel (Back Roads made it to the Oprah book club!), a lot of anticipation surrounded this sophomore novel. And I enjoyed this one quite a bit - just as much as her first - if not more, I think! It was a more straightforward story in a lot of ways. The narrator wasn't quite as charming as Harley, but the cast of characters as a whole felt far richer and just generally more developed than the background cast in Back Roads. There were some overlapping descriptions of ...more
Aug 03, 2010 Leah rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rich Humes
May 22, 2016 Rich Humes rated it really liked it
I had a tough time rating this book because, being from an old coal town, I have never related to characters in the way I related to every character in this story.

I can literally connect every storyline with people I know or knew of growing up. Mine disasters, alcoholism, high school football as religion, coal dirt everywhere, it all hit me in the chest.

Therefore, I'm not sure I can give an honest appraisal because there's just too much emotionally for me to not have blinders on.

I likely would h
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Tawni O'Dell is the New York Times bestselling author of Fragile Beasts, Sister Mine, Coal Run, and Back Roads, which was an Oprah's Book Club pick and a Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection. Tawni's screen adaptation of Back Roads is currently in development to be made into a film with Adrian Lyne set to direct. Her work has been translated into 15 languages and been published in over 30 ...more
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“I let my soul be corrupted that day, although it would be years later before I accepted what I had done. I forgot who I was and what I should do and only thought about what I wanted and what I could do.” 1 likes
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