The Green Mile Readalong Wrap Up

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

We may it down the long mile! Care and I had so much fun reading this together with you guys. Thanks to Care for her check-in posts for each section and fun part favors she sent out! 

Well, the ending certainly made me cry, even though I read it years ago and knew what was coming. I was struck this time by the guilt that Paul must have struggled with for the rest of his long life. I wonder if it's similar to people who must kill someone in a war. You are taking a life, regardless of whether it is sanctioned and justified. 

I also wondered about the "Magical Negro" trope in reference to this book. I think the story would have been just as powerful if Coffey was white. The only major thing I could think of that would be changed by that are the argument about an appeal being unlikely for Coffey, despite new evidence, because of his race. I didn't think about it the first time I read it, but I'll be honest that the past year has changed my lens for processing some things like that. 

One thing that really blew me away was the patience required to read just one section a month when it was first realized. The serialized novel used to be so common, but nowadays we throw a fit if we can't binge a show as soon as it's released. I loved reading this with a group and trying to stop at the end of each section. There are cliffhangers, so it wasn't easy! 

What did you guys think? Anything stand out to you about the plot that you weren't expecting or loved?

Here's my full review from the first time I read it:

There are books that put you into reading slumps and there are those that get you out of them. This is the latter. I couldn’t put it down, I didn’t want it to end and I was thinking about the characters long after I was done with it. There’s not much more you can ask from a book.

Our narrator Paul Edgecombe introduces us to the green mile and its 1932 residents. The “Green Mile” is a death row penitentiary, nicknamed for its long hallway paved with green linoleum. It’s full of the worst dredges of humanity and some of the kindest. Paul runs the mile with his fellow guards, keeping the prisoners in check and running an occasional execution via electric chair whenever someone’s time is up.

The convicts include William "Billy the Kid" Wharton, one of the most twisted individuals I’ve encountered in a novel. Then there’s Eduard Delacroix, who has made his mistakes, but now spends his time training his sweet pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, to do tricks. John Coffey is the other notable inmate. He’s a huge black man with a gentle spirit and an odd gift.

In addition to the criminals, there are a handful of guards, only one of which truly instills fear in the reader. Percy Wetmore is the nephew of a high-up politician and has wormed his way into this job. I don’t think I’ve ever despised a character more than I did with Percy. He is a cruel coward. Paul is reflecting on this eventful year decades later and he sees Percy’s malice mirrored in Brad Dolan, an employee of the nursing home where he now lives. It’s such a powerful reminder that those kinds of people are everywhere, in all works of life. They thrive on manipulation and intimidation.

One interesting aspect of this novel is the format in which it was written. King decided to try writing a serialized novel. This is how many books were written during the 19th century (Dickens, Thackeray, etc.) and so King split the book into six sections. Each one was published as a paperback with a different title. He published one each month for six months in 1996. The only drawback to this method is that some elements feel repetitive when read as one consecutive novel. King reiterates some plot points as reminders of what happened in the last installment, but it’s not too distracting when taking in context of the original format.

BOTTOM LINE: If The Stand made me second guess my preconceived notions about King’s talent as a writer, this novel solidified him as a brilliant storyteller in my mind. I was so invested in the story and it broke my heart over and over again. I loved reading this and I highly recommend the audiobook version read by Frank Mueller.

“What I didn’t realize was how many doors the act of writing unlocks, as if my Dad’s old fountain pen wasn’t really a pen at all, but some strange variety of skeleton key.”

"Although I know that no one under the age of, say, fifty would believe this, sometimes the embers are better than the campfire."


Care said...

Great fun! Thank you Melissa for keeping after me to remember we needed to do this. And it was so cool that we had readers from 5 states and one other country: New Zealand reading along with us.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - I loved it too! I think reading a book together is fun because you get a chance to see things from other peoples' perspectives!

Care said...

I'm trying to find 20 books to commit to this summer for the #20BooksofSummer -- and it is difficult! Especially when I don't know what books clubs will select, etc. I am also looking at my library holds that are far far away. How about you? What is on your must-read-next list?