The Coalwood Way: A Memoir Mass Market Paperback – Sep 4 2001
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In this follow-up to his bestselling autobiography Rocket Boys, Homer Hickam chronicles the eventful autumn of 1959 in his hometown, the West Virginia mining town of Coalwood. Sixteen-year-old Homer and his pals in the Big Creek Missile Agency are high school seniors, still building homemade rockets and hoping that science will provide them with a ticket into the wider world of college and white-collar jobs. Such dreams make them suspect in a conservative small town where "getting above yourself" is the ultimate sin and where Homer's father, superintendent of the Coalwood mines, is stingy with praise and dubious about his son's ambitions. Homer's mother remains supportive, but bluntly reminds him, "You can't expect everything to go your way. Sometimes life just has another plan." Indeed, Hickam's unvarnished portrait of Coalwood covers class warfare (union miners battling with his authoritarian father), provincial narrow-mindedness (the local ladies scorn a young woman living outside wedlock with a man who abuses her), and endless gossiping along the picket "fence line." These sharp details make the unabashed sentiment of the book's closing chapters feel earned rather than easy. Hickam can spin a gripping yarn and keep multiple underlying themes and metaphors going at the same time. His tender but gritty memoir will touch readers' hearts and minds. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Not really a sequel to Hickam's first memoir, Rocket Boys (which was made into the successful movie, October Sky, and dealt primarily with his gang of misfit friends and their inventive, adventurous exploits) this book, set around Christmas 1959, is a study of the town of Coalwood and how a fast-moving world affects a small community resistant to change and the introspective teenage boy in its midst. Hickman's reading is flawless. His voice and perspectiveAas a man looking back on his childhoodAconvincingly conveys experience and a reminiscent tone, while at the same time sounding so full of youthful exuberance that listeners will be certain they hear the voice of teenage Homer himself. Coalwood, W.Va., is a coal-mining town. Homer Hickam Sr., the author's father, is the superintendent of the mine and resented by the workers. To his children, he is a formidable man, and his imaginative second son, Homer Jr., aka "Sonny," obsessed with the 1950s space race, does not want to follow in his father's black, dusty footprints. With Christmas fast approaching, the tension in the town grows as layoffs threaten miners' jobs, until Sonny's father takes a huge risk to save them and the town's livelihood. Simultaneous release with the Dell hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 18). (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Where you love the "return to the fullness of [Sonny's] senior high school year," I find it boring, and often confusing. The timeframe keeps switching throughout the memoir. Sometimes Hickam refers to things that he had already discussed in "Rocket Boys," and sometimes he introduces new material. It is constantly hard to tell exactly what's going on, and where the story is taking place. Especially towards the beginning, I find this to be far from the great novel that you describe. Maybe the difference in opinion comes because you enjoy the detail that Hickam uses in this second book, and I find it tedious. It seems fairly obvious to me that all the action was used up in the first book, and nothing "good" was left for the sequel. This story is made up of filler material that was (rightfully) omitted from "Rocket Boys."
I, too, see the message you write of (what it's like to fight through the hard times), but I don't find the story as emotionally intense as you do. In this sequel, we learn only about some of Sonny's schoolboy crushes, but we don't discover anything more that really lets us come to a better understanding of Sonny as a person. It is true that the ending of the book is far superior to the opening. However, Win Idle, you are over exaggerating the amount that the reader will learn about himself by discovering Coalwood. You also over emphasize Hickam's use of emotion.Read more ›
For one thing, i was a bit disappointed about the author's foreword. He swears that even though the events in the book passed so long ago (1959), he remembers everything in tremendous detail. If he hadn't said that, i wouldn't have even thought about it. As a person with very bad memory, i don't believe him.
Some of the characters are described to a point that they almost seem caricatures. I couldn't help think of Martin on The Simpsons when reading about Quentin. Roy Lee reminded me of Elvis Presley in one of his cheesy movies.
The memoir almost redeemed itself in page 267 (chapter 27), when Sonny finally realizes what has been bugging him all along (here's something i wish i had done: jot down the items on Sonny's list as you read along). That discovery makes the book worthwhile. However, the memoir ends with the Christmas Pageant, and that image really ruined the moment for me.
Not only did I now have a chance to get more familiar with the "Rocket Boys" story and characters, but I also had a whole other novel with which to do it. For, you see, this memoir isn't really a sequel to the aforementioned book, but actually an expansion of a section of the original story; a kind of story within a story. Think of it as zooming in on just one section of a fractal image to see all of the intricate details within the new image.
The scope of the first memoir was pretty much the entire high school career of Homer (Sonny) and the Rocket Boys and focused predominantly on their exploits with amateur rocketry. But, the real charm of the original story came from the background setting and people of Coalwood, West (by God) Virginia. The boys of the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA) still play a big part in this story that spans basically only one year of high school from roughly Christmas of their junior year through Christmas of their senior year.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I wished there was more to the story. Loved Rocket Boys but this was too slow and a bit boring.Published 15 months ago by Ari B.
How many wonderful works of literature were we denied by Homer Hickam (not Hickham or Hickman) going into Industrial Engineering? Read morePublished on May 12 2004 by Michael in Helena, Alabama
There is something about Mr. Hickam's writing that draws you in immediately. It seems that each and every word that he writes is meaningful not just as a word in a sentence, but... Read morePublished on May 7 2003 by Jennings Xu
Brilliant, I took me only 2 days to finish this book, a great book to follow Rocket Boys (aka October Sky). Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2003
I love Christmas stories and this is one of the best ever written. It is the only Christmas book that has made me truly appreciate the miracles that can only happen at Christmas. Read morePublished on Oct. 9 2002
The Coalwood Way, by Homer Hickam, is the sequel to October Sky. It is 1959 and the
Rocket Boys are still making their handmade rockets. Read more
This book is not about rockets. But then, neither was Rocket Boys, when you think about it. Rockets happen to be the glue that held the vignettes in the first story together, but... Read morePublished on July 1 2002 by Bruce Pierson
The book The Coalwood Way by Homer Hickam is an excellent read. Out of a five scale rating, I give it a five. It was truly, an incredible book. Read morePublished on May 16 2002
I have lived in West Virginia all my life. I know how hard life is, to find a job and raise a family. I also know how proud most West Virginia's are of the state. Read morePublished on Feb. 8 2002