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Coal Run

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,056 ratings  ·  211 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 th ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 7th 2005 by Berkley Books (first published June 17th 2004)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,056 ratings  ·  211 reviews

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Jason Koivu
Sep 03, 2011 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
Toria (some what in hiatus)
I didn't find my reading experience of this book to be very entertaining at all, rather boring. Couldn't get intrested enough in the story nor characters to care what was happening next or how it would end ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars
Feb 04, 2010 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 cho ...more
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
Asghar Abbas
Oct 10, 2015 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 is still a good book by a great writer.

On a side note: This woman is my hero, O'Dell writes like a writer and can be an inspiration to all genders. Love her style, work. And her intelligence.

Not a good enough follow-up to Back Roads, but just about.
Paul Haspel
Jan 07, 2012 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 second t ...more
May 25, 2008 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
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alesha Cary
Jul 17, 2015 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
Mar 22, 2009 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,
Feb 26, 2015 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 20, 2009 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 14, 2013 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.
Kerry Zukus
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania tip their hat to the bituminous mines of the west -- or west of Philadelphia meets east of Pittsburgh. Tawni is funny, plotty, descriptive, and draws you into her world. We seem to cover a lot of the same territory in our writing, which makes me a big fan.
Jul 06, 2007 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. ...more
Jul 21, 2009 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. ...more
Dec 25, 2010 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. ...more
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! ...more
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. ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was highly disappointed in this book, nothing like her debut novel, Back Roads. Long, drawn out and mostly boring. Glad I borrowed it from the library and didn't waste my money on this one. ...more
Mar 30, 2016 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. ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
This novel is disturbing and wrong in too many ways. I want to give it more stars because she isn't a bad writer. She's just bad at creating realistic characters for whom her readers can feel empathy.

The main character, Ivan, is a rapist and that's an okay choice for a protagonist. What isn't okay is making him a total ass and then asking us, the reader, to understand him or his quest for forgiveness. Not happening.

As a daughter of a coal miner and having grown up in a Western PA coal town and
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell is a novel situated in a western Pennsylvania coal-mining town. The main character is town deputy and injured football star Ivan Z. The book was published in 2005 Berkeley Books.

Ivan has recently returned to his hometown after years of being away. He returns to Coal Run to await a former teammates release from prison and to facedown his troubled past. The town Sheriff has hired him as deputy despite the fact that Ivan has no qualifications, is physically unfit, and he’s
AngelaGay Kinkead
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well-written and set in Western PA (with historical elements from Central Pennsylvania). Coal, ethnic culture, and location hits a triple. A good dose of redemption throughout several characters who enter the story as not worthy, yet gifted at the end with undeserved love. Grace. I'm rarely a serial reader, but I'll check out "Back Roads" by Tawni O'Dell. ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: drama
After her first book "Back Roads" I was interested in checking out her other writings. Well, I'm done now. Even though I thought the first book dragged some, this one 'takes the cake' ! There seems to be no end and I kept nodding off waiting for something to happen. there are some redeeming actions but don't bother reading this book. ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I didn't come around to this story until about 50 pages and then I felt drawn to this somewhat unlikeable main character, Ivan. A hopeful but sad look at the personal impact of coal mining and what the aftermath of tragedy does to families in coal regions. The writing is engaging and suspenseful, knowing that something is going to happen but not sure what. ...more
Shelley Shoemaker
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked this novel. It wasn't as shocking or page-turning as Back Roads, but, on the upside, I was happy with the ending. From the last page, I'm sensing a sequel in the future! I can only hope...it would be very exciting to read! ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-finished
60 pages into the book and it went in the GoodWill bag. Started out good with the unfortunate mine blast and thereafter the book started being filled with too many characters in the early stages and somewhat juvenile. Did not finish. Was not my cup of tea.
Kimberly Souza
Jan 21, 2022 rated it liked it
I guess every author has that one book that just kind of falls flat. This book was OK, but a bit all over the place. I'm most grateful that I actually finally finished it. Moving on to Sister Mine and hoping for a better experience. ...more
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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 countri ...more

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