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Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster Hardcover – Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151005591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151005598
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.1 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 755,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

It's hard to imagine a scenario more terrifying than being trapped in a gaseous, crumbling coal mine two miles beneath the earth's surface in utter darkness, without food or water, while your gravely injured colleagues howl in agony all around you. This is the premise of author Melissa Fay Greene's engrossing book, Last Man Out, which recreates the Springhill, Nova Scotia mine disaster of 1958. Of the 174 men who entered the mine on the afternoon shift of October 23, 74 never left. Last Man Out is the story of two small groups among the 99 survivors who lasted more than a week in the bowels of the deepest coal mine in the world after its sudden collapse. By relying (among other things) on survivor interviews conducted at the time by two Nova Scotia professors, Greene places the reader in the devastated shafts with the men. "Deep underground, darkness and silence ruled for an unknown length of time," writes the author, "The narrow layers of air swarmed with coal dust as if the flying particles and specks of coal were the only things in the universe, like black, charred, stirred-up matter in the eons before Creation. In the swirling blackness, the men's faces stung as if in a sandstorm. Some unconscious, some dying, they were zinged and pelted where they lay by a thousand small meteorites of coal." We hear their conversations--all lyrical Maritimer lilt--and watch as they struggle to free those trapped, and to free themselves. Greene also gives us their families, working class folks just barely hanging on and facing utter ruin at the loss of the sole breadwinner. And we hear from many of the 137 reporters from around the world--plus accidental participants such as comedian Shecky Green--who gather at the site to bring the tragic story home. Greene is successful not only in capturing the misery of the trapped men but also in giving context to the horrifying event. Educated men don't descend the mines to make a living; men with no alternatives do. Their strength and dignity in the face day-to-day adversity makes Last Man Out a thoroughly humbling read. --Kim Hughes,

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"In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia, in 1958, coal-mining men dropped through the crust of the earth to a few of the deepest roads on the planet." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Heather Negahdar VINE VOICE on 11 Aug 2003
Format: Hardcover
In the year 1958, the Springhill Mine Disaster occurred in Nova Scotia, where men were trapped and plunged into darkness below sea level with little hope of escape or ever seeing their families again.
As you reach further into the book you become distraught and filled with anxiety one time and then hope at another interval.. For from day to day the picture changed and one was never sure how the trapped miners were going to have the strength to persevere.
They were challenged beyond what I thought humankind could endure, and then again it is at those weakest moments when we do find that strength, and do the jumping fences too high for us........cutting off our legs if they hurt too badly, those kind of things.
This book is true story and not to be taken for lightly or for granted. I would give this book five golden stars......and then Ms. Melissa Fay Greene for her wonderful courage in writing this great book.
Heather (nettle-girl)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Moving , Human Drama 1 April 2003
By "jfgummels" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book was a terrific read. It is a story of 19 men who are trapped in a coal mine in Springhill, Novia Scotia, when a "bump" occurs: a huge force of gas from deep in the earth which pushes the floor of the mine tunnels to the ceiling timbers, crushing equipment like toys and killing over a hundred miners. It is also the story of the families of the miners, segregation in the state of Georgia, the choices made by politicians and their advisors, post-traumatic stress of survivors, and how individual lives are affected by having the spotlight of fame shone of them for a brief period of time. At its heart, "Last Man Out" is a human tale of courage, honor and decency in the face of natural and manmade adversity. I finished the book in two sittings, needing to know if these men would be liberated from their dark prison of coal and how their wives and children would survive.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The book that made me cry, laugh and think 12 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book of Melissa Fay Greene is a wonderfully written, thoughtful description and analysis of an extreme situation: a disaster that strikes an entire town. What I love about the book is that it presents very difficult situations in a compassionate, yet totally true and honest way. The book is based on extensive research and interviews, and the author allows the men who were trapped underground in the mine collapse to speak with their own words, making their suffering and lives very distinct and understandable. Yet the voice of the author is also clearly heard in the book and she draws conclusions from these individual stories, conclusions about the nature of heroism, communal reactions to catastrophes, the solitude of dying. These conclusions are never ponderous: Melissa Fay Greene never preaches or behaves like "senior analysts" we are besieged with. Her reasoning is woven into the story, and she is a superb story-teller. She writes with such a talent and taste for language and words, that every page is a delight to read. This is a book that made me cry, laugh, and think. I recommend it to all readers.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Haunting & Insightful True Story of Tragedy & Survival 5 April 2003
By Richard E. "Nick" Noble - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book tells the story of a Nova Scotia coal mine disaster in 1958 and its rather unique aftermath. Melissa Fay Greene weaves a series of small personal stories into a haunting and evocative narrative: one of the best "disaster" books I have ever read. The resiliency of the survivors, when juxtaposed with the unusual events which followed, including the bizarre intervention of the racist Governor of Georgia, really gives this account a special perspective on history and the human condition.
I found it fascinating that the author, from Georgia, became involved in the saga of the Springhill miners from the back end of the story, as it were. The Georgia connection adds a remarkable coda to the miners' ordeal, but if she had just told that, it would not have resonated as effectively as the book does. She took the time to trace the story to its beginning and to tell it all. For that I am grateful. I learned far more than I had ever known before, and I was drawn in by her skill with narrative and her genuine understanding of/empathy for those involved.
This insightful book is definitely a worthwhile experience.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great story from a great author 18 Aug 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ever since I visited the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, I have been looking for a really good book about mining accidents. I wanted to know more about how men survive such an ordeal, and what motivates those who risk their lives to save those who are trapped. So, I was thrilled when I saw in my local bookstore a book on the Springhill Mining Disaster. Even better, it was written by the same author as "Praying for Sheetrock", a book I had read while traveling throughout the east coast of Georgia. I couldn't believe my luck.
When I brought the book home, I was surprised to see that the story took place in Nova Scotia. It's a bit embarrassing to say, but I am Canadian and didn't know anything about this story, except perhaps a vague sense that maybe I'd heard it mentioned before on CBC Radio or something. I was also excited to see that it discussed the history of Jekyll Island, a resort area in Georgia that I had stayed at last year and found very interesting.
I still find it hard to believe that the author could have hit such a bulls-eye for my own reading interests - mining, Southern U.S. history, Canadian Maritime history - and interweave them so beautifully and in such an interesting way. It was a truly fascinating book. In some ways, it reminded me of "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakaueur, particularly in the way the groups handled their situation, and in how they reacted afterward. These are painful stories, with different interpretations of what happened, and people's feelings are bound to be hurt with any media coverage (as happened in both cases). I was also reminded of the fictional characters in "No Great Mischief" by Alistair MacLeod, one of my favourite books of all time - a book set partly in the mines of Northern Ontario.
If I had any complaints at all, it's that the beginning of the book was a bit tough to get into. I found certain sections made far too much use of similes (e.g. "History was measured like time in a whaling village..."). No particular sentence on its own was poorly written, it was just that such a stream of "like this" and "like that" made it hard for me to read. This may be my personal preference - I don't like this style of writing. For those who are like me, my advice is to keep reading, because the story gets really good, and the flowery style is discarded fairly quickly. For those who like this style, well then, you'll have some great reading at the beginning of the book!
This book brought tears to my eyes, and made my heart race with excitement. It's very, very good.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
My Book Club Will Love This 29 April 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
These are the times that try men's souls--and men and women alike look to literature to buoy us up for the dark days that seem to keep coming. Thus, overturned cruise ships and volcanoes abound, but for my money you can do no better than pick up Last Man Out; The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster. Melissa Fay Greene has written more than a gripping hour-by-hour account of how, in 1958, 19 Canadian miners struggled to survive after a "bump" smashed floor and ceiling together, rendering the mine an underground prison. She takes a story that we think we've all seen before---the desparate, waiting women and children, the little town banding together, the media carnival that follows their miraculous rescue--and with nuanced language and a gift
for uncovering human folly, steers us to look beyond the tale
of disaster into its implications in the larger world. With Greene's book, we think not just about terror and bravery but what happens to heroes once the cameras finally turn off. Who is this book for? Well, definitely my book club, and Father's Day,
but now I'm thinking Mother's Day as well. It's that universally appealing, that compelling a read, that good.
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