Book Review: Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Coal RiverCoal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In 1912, nineteen-year-old Emma Malloy has lost everything and everyone she loves. Her parents are killed in a theater fire in New York, and she’s forced to move to the town of Coal River, Pennsylvania, to live with her mother’s sister and her family. A place where she had vowed never to return.

Coal River is a mining town with a deadly past. The Bleak Mountain Mining Company is run by a heartless, selfish old man named Hazard Flint. He’s breaking every mining law that’s written in order to line his pockets with money from the production of coal, even sinking as low as hiring children as young as six and seven years old. Children are getting maimed, and some even lose their lives trying to earn a few pennies to help their parents make ends meet between paychecks.

Emma’s arrival triggers hostilities and memories that had long been buried. She finds herself being accused of bringing bad luck to the town. She searches for ways to win the hearts of the mining families and to help in their efforts to bring change to the mining company. However, all her efforts backfire and she ends up in deep, deep trouble.

I get the general theme of this story, but I was annoyed by how the author kept using flashbacks to remind us of all that Emma has lost. On one page, Emma’s repulsed by the guy she believes contributed to her brother’s death, and then a few pages later she’s asking him to do favors for her. It’s these repetitive scenes that earned this novel such a low rating in my opinion.

Her aunt and uncle treat her worse than a slave in their home and tell her she’s worthless trouble. They are constantly threatening to send her to the poorhouse if she doesn’t do as they say. I doubt the poorhouse could have been any worse than having to live with them, but during that era, being in the poorhouse was considered more shameful than anything else.

This novel was too bleak for me, but don’t just take my word for it. Read the novel and judge for yourself.

Time for me to find another book to read

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