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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****The Coalwood Way

by Homer Hickam

Reviewed September 30, 2001.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2001
2000.  Available at Sembach Library (B HIC).

This was a beautiful book by the author of Rocket Boys, which was made into the movie October Sky.  When we were visiting America at the 2000 New Year, several people told us we had to watch the movie October Sky.  We did, and it was fabulous and inspiring, about a group of West Virginia high school boys who built rockets in the hope of winning a scholarship to get out of a lifetime working in the coal mines.

After seeing the movie, of course I had to read the book it was based on.  The truth is, I was a bit disappointed.  I learned that the real story wasn’t quite as inspiring as the movie.  The movie makers changed some facts to make it a more inspiring tale, and it worked.  I also wasn’t particularly interested in the author’s first experience with sex, which I thought diluted the inspiring message, and made me more reluctant to recommend it, particularly to teenage boys!

The Coalwood Way, however, is everything I hoped a book by Homer Hickam would be.  I liked it much better than the October Sky book, and as well as the October Sky movie.  This book dealt with the same time period in his life, his last couple of years of high school, when he was building rockets and dreaming of better things.  For this book, the rockets were only a backdrop.  It dealt with his relationship with his father, his mother, his brother, and the whole community of Coalwood which he was trying to leave.  Those relationships were complex, and the author succeeded in showing their many sides.  He had me shedding tears in places, then managed to close with an inspiring finish that tied it all together.  A magnificent book.  Please check it out quickly, so I have an excuse not to send it back to the book rental company!


Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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