By: Stephen King
Cold Mountain Penitentiary is the temporary home of the most depraved and savage criminals in Louisiana. Paul Edgecomb’s job is to take care of these inmates before it’s their turn to walk the Green Mile, the strip of prison that leads the inmates to Old Sparky, the resident electric chair. Having witnessed and guided more than seventy inmates to their deaths, Edgecomb wouldn’t have reason to think much is different about his new resident, John Coffey. The dim giant of a man is brought to the Mile on charges of raping and murdering two young girls, and, with such a heinous offense, Edgecomb starts to wonder why he is drawn to the mountain of a man. However, the more he learns about Coffey, the more horrific the giant’s circumstances become. And though he will later regret it, Edgecomb finally learns just how dark and uncaring the world truly is, and why sometimes it’s better to keep a light on.
In my last Stephen King review of The Outsider, I said that I had instantly become a fan of King’s writing. However, that level of admiration for the author pails in comparison to how I feel about his writing now. I wanted to devour this book more so than any I have read in a long time. Even more so than The Outsider and I thought that book was great. The Green Mile was also probably enhanced for me because I have never (at the moment of writing this) seen the movie, so the details were new and surprising.
The language in which King wrote this book was a little difficult to get into at first. I transitioned from his 2018 style of writing to a 1930s dialect I was unfamiliar with. However, the transition didn’t take long at all and I was rockin’ and rollin’ in a matter of a couple chapters.
The division of the book was, again, very conducive to sitting and binge reading since the story was written as a serial before it was ever published as a complete novel. I will say that if I was one of the people that had to wait for the next serial to come out, I would have been fiercely displeased. Didn’t have to worry about that in the world of 2019 though, and, crap, am I glad for that.
Stephen King, as you well know, is phenomenal at writing characters that are believable with distinct and telling personalities. The characters feel like people rather than just words on a page. His style is one of the reasons the story resonates so much with me and many other readers. I loved John Coffey and Mr. Jingles (a.k.a. Steamboat Willie) with every fiber of my being.
In his distinct way, King leaves you guessing until the end. He gives the reader pieces at a time and hints at the details of the story without revealing his hand at any given point. To a certain extent, he even did that with the last page of the book, and I felt that was bold. That boldness is one of the reasons I find him so compelling.
The novel isn’t horrifying in a gory sense. Truthfully, the story had some hilarious moments if you read it out loud as King intended rather than in your head. But what King lacks in gory details, he makes up for in emotional torture. The kind of torture that is somehow pleasant to self inflict and you keep reading in spite of…anyone who has ever read a heart-wrenching story that you couldn’t tear yourself away from will know what I mean. Halfway through the book, I was already sobbing, and I was in the same state at the end.
The novel touched my heart, hurt my mind, and shattered my spirit in a way I didn’t expect. It bruised me to the core and made me think of human suffering and those that try to keep it at bay. This is a novel that leaves the reader feeling hopeless and a little lost. You may even feel like you have a newfound perspective and feel enlightened in some strange way. I know I did.
I can say with absolute certainty that this is one of the best novels I have ever read. The story broke me the way only great books can, and, in a way, I love it for that.
Sometimes the world is terrible, and all we can do is try to help in our small way.
Overall rating: 5+ stars
Seriously, please read this.