THE GREEN MILE | Stephen King
07.01.2009 (originally published 1996) | Orion
Rating: 5/5 stars
The Green Mile is the nickname of the long corridor that death row inmates walk before meeting their fate at the electric chair. Those who travel the mile do not return. Cold Mountain Penitentiary is home to some of the worst criminals the world has seen. In 1932, Cold Mountain receives their newest resident on death row, John Coffey. More giant than man, Coffey has been convicted for the brutal murder of two young girls.
Nothing is how it seems with Coffey. Beneath his stoic, silent exterior is a voice of reason and truth, as well as a unique ability that sets him apart from the others living on the mile with him.. Could this man truly have done the horrific crimes he is accused of? Paul Edgecombe, the man in charge of the mile, can’t be sure and decides to break the rules to find out more about Coffey.
Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.
Most people have seen the movie adaptation of THE GREEN MILE, but unlike the majority of people, I have somehow avoided ever fully watching the movie, which allowed me to go into this story quite blind to how things would play out. I met Coffey and Edgecombe in a completely unbiased way and fell in love with the story that King has formed around these two characters.
THE GREEN MILE is set during the Great Depression in the Deep South of the United States, which are two very important setting characteristics to note when reading this story. Today there are things that happen within the book that would cause the jaws of US residents to drop to the floor, but during this time period and location these were simply how things worked. Without giving too many details away, I will say that this setting particularly resonated with me when the investigation into Coffey’s crimes is explained. You can feel the hopelessness surrounding those learning the details along with the reader, as well as those most closely impacted by the crime and trial results.
Sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation.
John Coffey is perhaps the most memorable character of THE GREEN MILE, however, it was narrator, Paul Edgecombe that stole my heart. Seeing things through his eyes was the perfect perspective. Together with Paul the reader goes on to meet Coffey and subsequently investigate his crimes before forming their official opinion of him. It also means that later on in the story we get to know Coffey even more intimately, along with getting to know Paul in the same way. My favorite underrated character was Brutal, who is essentially Paul’s right hand man at Cold Mountain. Both Paul and Brutal have a much softer side to themselves than readers would perhaps expect to find for people working on death row, which speaks yet again to the setting of the Great Depression, where people couldn’t afford to be choosy about their jobs.
THE GREEN MILE was originally published in incremental installments, which does leave some awkward overlapping of details in sections of the book. I found that I noticed they were present, but wasn’t deterred by their presence. I do think that the original publishing structure of this book allowed for the story to be perfectly broken up into the main events of the plot. This breakdown of parts also kept King, an author who often favorites extremely detailed writing, to a more concise structure.
I highly recommend giving this one a read even if you have already seen the movie. It’s always fun for me to compare the book versus the movie and I’m looking forward to checking out the film adaptation soon!
Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.