Book Review: Grey Pine by T. Lloyd Winetsky

Based on real events, Grey Pine is a gripping story of one man's struggle to survive amidst the chaos of the forces of nature and the inner workings of a troubled mind.

On May 18, 1980, the eruption of Mount Saint Helens captured the attention of America. The communities east of the Cascade Mountains were woefully unprepared for the devastation and disruption that followed, transforming for many a bright spring day into a murky, twenty-hour night.
Grey Pine is the story of Phillip Stark, a bright and innovative young science teacher who attempts to treat the ash fall as an opportunity for experiment and wonder, but who is constantly thwarted by the resulting havoc in the community, and his own personal demons. As his health declines, his relationships suffer. The chaotic and often dangerous situations with his alcoholic father, irksome neighbor, unreliable girlfriend, and strained friendships derail any attempt to regain control of his life. All the while the omnipresent ash from the volcanic eruption acts as a symbolic reminder of his oppression and inability to break through.

Grey Pine is a gritty account of post-Vietnam America that chronicles social ills that are not unfamiliar to us in the present day: youth suicide, clinical depression, racial tension, alcoholism, and the malaise from an unpopular war. Phillip must learn to find a way to hold on to his sanity and strength to move past the obstacles created by the forces of nature--both those from without and within.

Grey Pine tells the story of Phillip, a young man with an alcoholic father and a mother who died of cancer.  The story starts with the Mount Saint Helens eruption and resultant ash fall around the surrounding areas.  If you've ever been through the aftermath of a natural disaster, Phillip's account of cleaning up his yard and home will bring those feelings back.  I was reminded of the evacuations and devastation left behind after Hurricans Rita and Ike here in Southeast Texas. 

The ash left behind after the volcano eruption reminded me of the scenery in Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  Along with the natural disaster, Phillip is dealing with severe personal problems, namely depression.  Grey Pine is very well executed.  I found myself compelled to keep reading, even though the book made me sad at times. 

Grey Pine is a book that will make you think.  It made me think about people's prejudices, the differences in medicine now and thirty years ago, parent-child relationships, addiction, and domestic violence.  I don't usually read this kind of book (I'm more into escapism reading), but I enjoyed Grey Pine.  It reminded me a lot of The Road, in a good way. 

Click here to visit the author's website.

Just One Gripe:
I was sad for most of the book, until the end, which left me with a feeling of hope.
The Best Thing About This Book:
I like that it addresses the stigma associated with mental illness.
Appropriate for a younger audience:
Probably not.  Parents, read it first and then decide.
Characters:  3/5
Plot:  3/5
Setting/Imagery:  4/5
Originality:  4/5
Ending:  4/5
Total Score:  18/25

*I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.


  1. Thanks for the heads up about my button. I fixed it now and grabbed yours too:)

  2. great review Kelli sounds very thought provoking :)

  3. Thank you! It was a very thought provoking book. It stayed with me for two days after I read it, it was so moving.


Word verification stinks--- but spammers are worse. Thank you for your patience!