Emily Michelle's Reviews > Red Helmet

Red Helmet by Homer Hickam
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Jul 16, 2011

it was ok

I read this book because when I picked it up at the library and read the blurb--"Her helmet says she's clueless about coal mining. She knows even less about love."--I thought that surely it had to be a joke. Turns out it's not.

The novel is set in the hills of West Virginia and deals with the romantic entanglements of a tough-as-nails New York businesswoman and a ruggedly handsome mine superintendent. It's a fairly implausible premise, unless it's for a dime-store romance novel, but I don't think it's completely hopeless. I just think that Hickam never managed to make it work. A huge problem is the main character, Song, who for the first part of the novel is completely and gratingly horrible--she shrieks (the author's own word) at someone for dirtying her expensive blouse, she tells a neighbor who has just driven several miles up a mountain to bring her dinner that she doesn't want it because it's fattening--and then suddenly decides to become a coal miner and falls in love with small-town West Virginia life. I never felt like Hickam had enough of a grasp on her character to make me believe in her transformation or care about her character. The love interest, Cable, doesn't have much of a character either, but at least you like him most of the time. And a number of the events that occur are thoroughly improbable; if I'd had to sit through one more moment of Song announcing that she had killed the villain, only to have him pop up a few pages later YET AGAIN, I was going to give up on the book entirely.

The saving grace of the book is the second part, which discusses in depth the work that coal miners do and what life is like in a small mining town. It's an occupation and way of life about which I knew nothing, and Hickam managed to dispense details without sounding like an encyclopedia. If only the rest of the book had fared as well.
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