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REVIEW: A Coal Miner’s Wife by Marin Thomas

Dear Ms Thomas,

book review I predict quite a few people will be interested in this book. It’s a straight contemporary with none of the stock characters or situations that appear to predominate in that genre. What? No SEALs, no secret agents, no model glamorous heroines? Amazingly enough, not a single one of those is to be found here. Recover from your shock readers, here’s an author who managed just that.

I used to work with some women from West Virginia. They’re some of the kindest women and hardest workers I’ve ever had the privilege to be around. One’s husband worked the mines for years til he got out due to health problems. They moved from there years ago but still miss the place and the people. So I wasn’t surprised to read about a woman who wants more for her twin sons than a life down in the mines. The other woman met a boy in high school and thought it was love. They married when she was 3 months pregnant and their marriage lasted about two years, leaving her with a son to raise. So this aspect of Annie’s life, about a woman who followed her mother’s footsteps and got pregnant young then dropped out of high school, is something else I’ve seen.

Annie McKee seems so real and down to earth. She’s a decent woman who made some major mistakes in her life but with a mother like hers, it’s not hard to imagine. Some readers might not understand her stubbornness and refusal to touch the money she got from the mines in compensation for her husband’s death but to her, it’s a way out for her boys. A chance for a better future for them and she’s not going to touch one penny of that money now that she’s used it to set up college funds for them. Maybe they won’t want to leave the Hollow. Maybe they’ll want to come back like their Uncle Patrick did after he got his college degree but whatever their choices are, Annie will know they had a choice. Her reluctance to try for a future with Pat was frustrating at times but I can understand how she still has a ways to go to get past her life long view of herself as poor trailer trash.

Pat Kirkpatrick knows he has to step carefully around Annie. He’s lived among stubborn women his whole life and knows the women of the Hollow would rather die than accept charity. He’s also unsure about how Annie’s going to feel if he reveals his long-standing love for her. Since he and her husband were best friends, he feels almost as if he’s betraying Sean. But he’s always known Annie’s the woman for him and he loves her sons as if they were his own. I like that he can understand her burning need to make it on her own. The way they work out their future at the end of the book – with no ultimatums, sudden changes of heart or forced happiness – was a delight to read.

Coming in on a series after it’s started is sometimes problematic. There are lots of characters from past books hanging around who must be explained to new readers. I could tell that this was the case in this book but you managed to give enough backstory about the people and events from those previous stories without overwhelming this one. Well done. Those characters also enriched the flavor of this one.

I think you did a marvelous job of describing the scenery and creating the background for these people. Annie drives a Gremlin – how much more awful a car could you have chosen to give her? Pat gets flustered when Annie starts treating him like a confidant. Guns and hunting he can handle but a woman’s tears send him into a panic. I’ve also known people like Annie’s mother who enjoy their own misery as well as take pleasure in that of others. Thank you for having Annie take control of her sex life and be determined to be the one who steers it where she wants it to go. I think the dialogue sounded realistic though the group meetings of the clan did tend to end up resembling a reunion of the original Clampetts.

To paraphrase what Tommy Lee Jones’ character says in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, “There’s nothing for me here except being an old man before I’m forty.” Life in this area of the country is hard and always has been. And yet the land is so beautiful and the people closely bound to each other, it’s easy to see how some long to leave and others couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. You’ve captured both extremes and given us a gentle love story that I hope will be widely read. B-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon, Harlequin or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

19 Comments

  1. rebyj
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 17:49:48

    This one looks interesting to me. Some in my family were coal miners or in industries that supported the coal mines. I had to giggle at the proper use of ” Hollow”. That ain’t how we say that word in western Ky. I was born in “coon holler”( a hole between hills) and lived in ” frog town”,( a mosquito ridden wetland) both circa 1900 – ww1 era names that one doesn’t look too deeply into their origins because no doubt they’re racially offensive then and now !

    It was actually a job men wanted to get into because there wasn’t much else to do in the area that would support a family. Very limited choices, the other choice were the saw mills that cut the support beams and other lumber for the mines,which is what my dad did. My grandad retired with black lung so I’ve always been well aware of the dangers as well.

    I’ll be purchasing the book! Thanks for the review.

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  2. Wendy
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 17:54:04

    No SEALs, no secret agents, no model glamorous heroines?

    Which is why I love Harlequin. Truly. You can regularly find “regular folks” in Harlequin Americans, Harlequin SuperRomances and Silhouette Special Editions. Oh sure, the occasional movie star or billionaire sneaks through – but by and large, regular people. I love that!

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  3. Jayne
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 17:59:16

    I was born in “coon holler”( a hole between hills) and lived in ” frog town”,( a mosquito ridden wetland) both circa 1900 – ww1 era names that one doesn't look too deeply into their origins because no doubt they're racially offensive then and now !

    What? These haven’t been cleaned up by state officials yet? I thought that most states went through their list of potentially offensive town names about a decade ago and ditched most of them. Shame really as some were so colorful. Wasn’t there a town named Fornication somewhere?

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  4. rebyj
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 18:19:09

    oh they aren’t official names ,even the small towns that were around them are no longer “towns” and have no zipcodes anymore.we have pics of where 30K people lived in sears roebuck houses on what is now my ex’s land but its all been strip mined now and is just a dirtpile. Anyway, the names above are what the locals have called them for over 100 years and how you still get directions .

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  5. Lyda
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 22:16:05

    I can see myself getting this book. Why? Oh that’s right. I AM a coal miner’s wife. And honestly it isn’t always easy. It’s nice that it’s actually close to “real life”. I know many people who as kids decide to leave and go somewhere with more action? Life? Then later they come back to raise their own family here where they call “home”. Heck, I left California to be here. But I can’t say I’d trade it for anything.

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  6. Jayne
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 04:07:39

    It was actually a job men wanted to get into because there wasn't much else to do in the area that would support a family. Very limited choices, the other choice were the saw mills that cut the support beams and other lumber for the mines,which is what my dad did.

    Those are the two jobs in the book. The heroine’s first husband went into the mines for the money but the hero works as the manager of the sawmill.

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  7. Jayne
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 04:15:08

    My WV friends still return there a lot to see friends and family. I’m not sure if they’d ever move back now though. However I do have a friend who moved there with her husband after they retired due to the lower cost of living. I enjoyed the ride up to see her (during May) but would hate to negotiate those mountain roads in the winter!

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  8. Leah
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 05:55:02

    About half the church I grew up in was originally from WV, and the other half from TN. They came to IN to work in the auto plants. One of my ancestors settled there in the 18th cy. I’ve been throught WV twice, and it is lovely, but I have to say, the mountains made me feel a little claustrophobic, and the New River Gorge just scared the mess out of me when I had to drive over it! I’m with Jayne. If I lived there, I don’t think I’d leave my house in the winter!

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  9. tls
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 11:54:02

    I live in southerwest Virginia. At least around here, coon refers to racoons (as in coon huntin’ and coon hounds/dogs, used to hunt racoons).

    The book sounds good.

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  10. Kelly C
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 12:02:41

    My maternal Grandmother was born in Slaughter House Hollow, West Virginia. And her adopted father worked in the coal mines.

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  11. allison
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 12:23:29

    I don’t know about a town called ‘Fornication’ but I grew up in Southcentral Pennsylvania near Amish country and we had – Intercourse, PA which was sort of near Blue Balls, PA.

    There are loads of colorful town names in Amish country.

    This book sounds really interesting. I’ll definitely be checking it out!

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  12. Anon76
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 13:52:41

    I am so going to buy this book.

    My close family is from the “hollers” of WV. Grandpa was a coal miner who died a mysterious death in a fire either A) at the shack where he had his “still”, or B) at his lover’s house after being shot. Then of course is the rest of the family saga.

    You see, people down there hold secrets long and hard. They are close-to-the-cuff, while at the same time giving bits and pieces of what actually happened. Great storyweavers, no doubt about it.

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  13. Lyda
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 14:17:43

    Ahhh now winter here isn’t that bad. For some reason the windy roads didn’t freak me out so much. Hehe. Maybe I’m just crazy. Though when winter comes you will most likely see me wishing I was back in CA.

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  14. Jayne
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 15:25:20

    For those who want to try this one, it’s the last book in a trilogy.
    “For the Children” (Oct 07) and “In a Soldier’s Arms” (Feb 08) were the earlier books.

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  15. rebyj
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 17:58:52

    That’s good to know, thanks!

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  16. Marin Thomas
    Sep 04, 2008 @ 07:37:45

    Jayne

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review A Coal Miner’s Wife.

    My *Hearts of Appalachia* series is dear to my heart. The inspiration for this story came from my great-aunt who actually grew up in the hills of Tennessee. I remember at the age of 16 visiting her in Colorado (she married a man in the service and then they became farmers in Colorado) My aunt shared stories of growing up in the “woods” and how she got her first pair of real shoes at the age of 16. Before then she’d wrap her feet in newspaper when she went outside to play in the cold. There was such love in her voice when she spoke of her family, their struggles to put food on the table, how neighbors pitched in and helped one another in hard times. But there was also frustration in her voice when she spoke of a family member becoming very ill and there had been no doctor nearby and that they hadn’t been able to afford to go to a doctor. She didn’t graduate from high school but is so proud that her three children all graduated from college.

    Each of my books touches upon an issue in Appalachia that I sensed was important to my aunt: For the Children touches upon the history of Moonshining and education. (My aunt had relatives who had their own stills and made moonshine). In a Soldier’s arms deals with the healthcare system in rural Appalachia and the clash of modern medicine VS. holistic healing methods. Then coal mining, the lumber industry and education in A Coal Miner’s Wife.

    I’ve received some interesting e-mails from readers in Appalachia–some say I’ve done a good job portraying the life there others saying that the “Hollows” are disappearing. And I’ve had a few readers tell me that most people in Appalachia aren’t as distrusting and unfriendly as I portray some of the “clans people” in my book. I claim creative license on some of the characters in my books but I admit I did sometimes go a bit far with my secondary characters in order to add humor.

    I believe Appalachia America is unique and I hope with all my heart that the traditions and culture of these people in this region thrive for many generations to come. If my books have opened reader’s eyes to this area of our country and made them appreciate its uniquness, then I’ve succeeded in what I set out to do.

    Thanks to all who take the time to read this book!

    Best wishes,
    Marin Thomas
    http://www.marinthomas.com

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  17. Jayne
    Sep 04, 2008 @ 09:04:40

    For a number of years, I had one aunt and uncle who lived in eastern Tennessee and another set who lived in western North Carolina. The NC aunt used to joke that if they rolled down one side of the mountain, they’d end up in TN and down the other side would land them in Georgia. I loved to visit them both and see the mountains though I did sometimes get a little queasy on the switchback roads.

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  18. Ciara
    Sep 07, 2008 @ 17:59:35

    Sweet! A coal miner hero! My hubby worked in the mine the first summer we dated. He could never get all the coal off. It stuck to his skin like a shroud. His dad and brother still work there. I shall have to pick this one up for myself and my mummy-in-law. How fun. :) Thanks for the review.

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  19. A Coal Miner’s Wife - Marin Thomas « Ebook Review Index
    Dec 08, 2008 @ 07:51:00

    [...] Dear Author [...]

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