Review: Coal Country by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen

Cover for Coal Country by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen

Title: Coal Country

Author: Jessica Blank, Erik Jensen

Narrator: Mary Bacon, Amelia Campbell, Michael Gaston, Ezra Knight, Thomas Kopache, Michael Laurence, Deirdre Madigan, Linda Powell

Music: Steve Earle

Length: 1 hour and 32 mins

3 stars out of 5
3 stars – I liked it

As a West Virginian I remember this disaster and the trial that occurred afterwards. I picked this up because it included interviews with the families BUT the voices you hear are not the actual family members but voice actors. 

I have mixed feelings about this audiobook. The interview portions were very emotional and captured the tragedy of this situation. It showed how Don Blankenship of Massey Energy really put profit over people’s lives and how he terrorized the miners into ignoring the lack of safety protocols.. I really enjoyed hearing the family members and miners’ views on this tragedy. I do wonder how much inflection was added to the interviews though since it’s not from the actual person, but an actor. 

My issue comes mostly from the very beginning of this audiobook. For the first 20 minutes there is music playing with short clips with the family members in between. Those short clips were terrible because they totally perpetuate the stereotypes of West Virginia people being ignorant hillbillies. They were also very pointless and not relevant to the disaster at all, like talking about a first date and deer hunting with a son. I think this portion (outside of the music) was ridiculous to include and made me almost stop listening. 

Because of the beginning of this audiobook, I am giving this three stars. If that hadn’t been included I probably would have given this a 4 or 5 just on how emotionally impactful these interviews were. Also, while there is some information on the lead up to this tragedy, it wasn’t very much, so you should probably look for other books on Upper Big Branch to get the full story of this tragedy. 

Goodreads | Amazon

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