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Tawni O’Dell Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Back Roads (1999) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Coal Run (2004) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Sister Mine (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Fragile Beasts (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Fragile Beasts (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Angels Burning (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Author Tawni O’Dell began her writing career getting rejected; over the course of thirteen years, she had written six novels (none of which got published) and got more than three hundred rejection letters. In the year 2000, her novel titled “Back Roads” was the first of her work to get published. This novel was a Book of the Month Club Main Selection and a pick for Oprah’s Book Club.

Now, her work has made it on to the New York Times Bestseller list, been translated into fifteen different languages, and has been published in thirty countries.

She was born in western Pennsylvania, a coal mining town called Indiana, Pennsylvania; it is the same town that Jimmy Stewart (the actor) comes from. She has set some of her work in this town.

She graduated from Northwestern University and got a degree in journalism. She did not like working in journalism, instead, she liked fiction writing, which she would make the switch to and it was something that she would never regret after that.

“Back Roads” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2000. Harley Altmyer does not live the life of a normal teen boy; he should be drinking Rolling Rocks and chasing girls around, while in college. He should be let go from the close minded people in the stricken coal town that has little to no jobs and zero sense of humor.

His mother is serving jail time after she killed Harley’s abusive dad, and now he is an orphan that has an adult’s responsibilities and a teen’s aggressive sex drive. He is only nineteen years old and is stuck in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, and he has to raise his three younger sisters. Their opinion about him goes from a dependence that is stifling to pure loathing. He starts obsessing about a beautiful and melancholy mother of two (whose name is Callie Mercer) that lives down the road from them; it makes him find that Victoria’s Secret catalogs do nothing for him.

Harley wants Callie so much that he may just explode at any moment. It is the secrets of his family, all the lies, and unspoken truths that start a bunch of surprises that ruins what was left of his family. Through it all, Harley could not know that the love he has for his sisters, humor, and bumbling heroics redeems them all.

Despite what is wrong with the Altmyer family, you will still find yourself liking them. Fans of the novel found this to be engaging; she does a great job of developing characters and has a likable writing style. Here is an author that does not describe the picture of things, but finds small details or flaws in the setting or a character’s idiosyncrasy to focus time on instead. Some feel this is both beautiful and fascinating.

“Coal Run” is the second stand alone novel and was released in the year 2004. A town is ravaged after a mine explosion killed 96 men thirty years ago; the after effects are being felt to this day among the current generation of survivors. One of which is Ivan Zoschenko, a local deputy and fallen football hero (also called “the Great Ivan Z”), his dad died on that day. He got injured, which upset his pro career, which leaves him to spend his days dispensing his own form of justice that is usually dangerous, and sometimes wise and funny. During nights, he usually drinks.

The story is set over a week of time, while Ivan gets ready from an ex-teammate to get out of prison. He introduces some eclectic group of characters. During the week, he faces down the demons he has and shows that his conscience is burdened by a huge and shocking secret. It involves a young girl’s ruined life that has to finally be reckoned with, all this time later.

Readers enjoy spending time in her messed up world of mining towns, and do not mind spending even more time in her worlds. Fans of the novel found that O’Dell is already a favorite author, after they have read only two books by her. This author shows the tangled lives of a group of rural people, and is able to show an accident’s impact, even many years later on people you may not expect.

“Sister Mine” is the third stand alone novel and was released in the year 2007. Shae-Lynn is a taxi driver in a town nobody needs a taxi, but a lot of people need to be driven around. She is an ex-cop that has a lot of miniskirts in her closet, Shae is very sharp tongued, and either takes men to bed or beats them up. Shae has built her life over the years with her son in the town of Jolly Mount, Pennsylvania, which is the coal town that she grew up in.

Two years back, Shae-Lynn had five miner friends that got media stardom because they got rescued after being trapped for four days in a mine. The men have a hard time dealing with the memories from the ordeal and the aftermath of their being famous for five seconds. Shae-Lynn herself finds that she faces down some harsh truths and remembers things about her past; part of which is the relationship she had with her vicious father. She has contradicting feelings for one of the miners and her son’s father is kept a mystery.

Her younger sister, that Shae thought was dead, shows up; she is followed by a Russian gangster with a gun, a New York lawyer on the shady side, and there is a Connecticut housewife. Shae-Lynn has to face the awful truth about the life that her sister has been living for the past few years. Will her return come in a horrific act of sacrifice or greed?

People were captivated by the characters in the book, and enjoyed learning more and more about them which made the book more of a page turner. Fans of the novel liked the way that the author is able to describe the people, culture, and landscape with authority and accuracy. This is an author that you can count on to write a strong story; the work is familiar but it is still original and distinct.

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