A review by tobin_elliott
The Green Mile by Stephen King

dark emotional inspiring mysterious reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Almost thirty years on, I'm finally reading this as a single novel. The first time, I read it in the monthly installments that came out, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

But this time? This novel has struck me like no other King novel. King has scared me. King has tugged at my heart. King has shown me evil and good, wonder and despair. He's made me laugh and made my cry. He's created characters that I loved and characters that I've despised, and even characters that have been incredibly close to people I know in real life.

He has never written a book that's affected me the way this one does. Even reading it for the second time, knowing some of the twists at the end, King's writing, his story, his storytelling, his characters, his situations...they hit me.

When a book hits me like this, I literally feel my mind splitting into two different, but equally active modes:

The first is the Reader, who still continues to move through the story, immersed in the story, and enjoying every word as it carries me on the path that King has woven. This is the part of me that's deeply affected.

The second is the Writer, who steps back a bit and sneaks over to that curtain and lifts it to take an admiring look at the inner workings of the story, the mechanics that King built so carefully and put in place to make this entire machine work so well. This is the part of me that's impressed and also trying to learn from it.

King has always been good at creating his everyman characters. They aren't rich, they aren't overly exciting...they're just you and me, but thrown into extraordinary circumstances. He's also been pretty good at creating those meaner characters, the bullies and the brutes. He's also created a lot of very good exceptional characters, Carrie White, Danny Torrance, Charlie McGee, Johnny Smith, and he's done it again with John Coffey. So, it's not these that make this novel special. They're what make it a King novel.

I think it comes down to two things.

The first is the incredible set pieces that King builds into this novel. Coffey with the two girls in the field. The first death of Mr. Jingles. William Wharton's arrival. The very bad death of Eduard Delacroix. Coffey with Melinda. Coffey with Percy, and Percy with Wild Bill, and two more scenes toward the end of the novel that enter into spoiler territory. I don't know that King's created a novel and packed such powerful scenes into it since maybe THE SHINING or IT. His novels all have one or two, but nine or ten? No. So, that's one. King was on fire with this one.

The other is how much King was able to dig into life and death and the consequences of both. How he was able to talk about the influence and indifference of God. And how he was able to build such nobility and pathos into his flawed characters that it literally hurts to see them in pain.

I don't think King ever wrote another novel like this, one so deeply affecting. But I will say, to anyone who ever doubts the man can write, this will always be the one I'll point to to prove them wrong.