A Season of Fire and Ice

A Season of Fire and Ice

by Lloyd Zimpel

Paperback(11171 Unbridled)

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From the heartlands of the 1880s Upper Midwest comes a morality tale of survival and destiny told in the convincing language of a patriarch’s journal, evoking a real sense of the time and place. Gerhardt Praeger, a farmer of some education and plenty experience, understands the mixture of hard work, ingenuity, ethic, grace and steadiness of spirit needed to hold his settler family and neighboring community together while homesteading the hard territory of the Dakotas. He, along with his wife and seven sons, must constantly contend with natural disasters and manmade challenges to carve out their holdings in an unforgiving environment that has defeated so many of their neighbors, sending them home to their families back east. Praeger believes that God will provide sufficiently if not in abundance to those who can resist over-reaching. But a new neighbor, the bold Beidermann, who seems at times almost larger than life, stirs both his curiosity and envy, and tests Praeger’s moral beliefs. Between his remarkable journal entries that observe the increasingly tense events between them, is also a narrative that moves the everyone toward calamity. What results is an almost biblical story of moral imperatives and self-revelation, of man striving to civilize his own impulses along with the wild land.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781932961362
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication date: 05/03/2007
Edition description: 11171 Unbridled
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

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A Season of Fire and Ice 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
davidabrams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For 19th-century pioneers, the Upper Midwest could be a harsh, unforgiving landscape¿isolated families had to contend with blizzards, drought, fire, influenza epidemics and other sudden hazards. One careless slip of the axe while chopping wood could push a hale and hearty man to the immediate brink of death.It's a world complete foreign to most of us who are lucky to have medical help just three buttons away on our cell phones. In his new novel, however, Lloyd Zimpel brings that hard life palpably alive. A Season of Fire and Ice is a skillful evocation of a time, a place, a temperature.Set in the Dakota Territory of the 1880s, the novel follows the trials and tribulations of Gerhardt Praeger who, along with his wife and seven sons, scrapes a living from the land. Faith and hard work get the family through nearly every calamity. If the crop is sufficient, without being bountiful, then that's enough.Presented as journal entries in Praeger's proud, righteous voice, A Season of Fire and Ice shows us how no man is an island. Despite his iron-spined philosophy of self-reliance, Praeger must join with the surrounding community to make it from season to season.This isn't always easy for him, especially when his newest neighbor, Leo Beidermann, seems unnaturally blessed by a God who takes his side in the game of survival. While Praeger is at first prickly to the unmarried newcomer ("Beidermann having ignited no benign flame in my own breast"), his attitude soon shifts to distrust and jealousy, especially when his two youngest sons befriend Beidermann who becomes their mentor, using them to work his land. Beidermann at first comes across as an arrogant, stand-offish loner who drives a magnificent team of Percheron horses and hunts with a vicious pair of Russian Wolfhounds. Gradually, we¿and Praeger¿come to realize there's kindness and gentleness beneath the gruff exterior.But it's not only Beidermann who is testing Praeger's patience, it seems that God is also putting him through the wringer. In the course of the novel, the family is pummeled by drought, fire, flood, blizzard and a locust plague of Biblical proportions:The first of our visitors descend, no more than we might see on a normal summer's day. They gaily leap, not so much flying as gliding for great distance: another leap, another glide. But behind these few scouts, the cloud unfolds, expands, becomes black as prairie smoke, as massive as the throngs of pigeons I have seen back East, spreads itself down on us; a crashing deluge, like buckets of hail crackling down. We have not finished tying cords around our sleeves and pants cuffs before they seethe over us, clinging for an instant and dropping away. The cowhides go thick with them, in overlapping layers, those on top covering those beneath, and another layer smothering those.By telling the majority of the narrative through Praeger's upright, Calvinistic voice, Zimpel presents a world that seems far removed from our own¿even though it's only been 120 years. At the same time, there are episodes which leap off the page with vivid descriptions of violence and disaster. During one particularly bad blizzard, cattle are "fastened to the ice by the heat of their muzzles;" another milk cow meets a similar fate when her swollen teats freeze to the ground and she has to be chopped free.Through it all, Praeger and his family trudge forward, heads down, a protective arm crooked in front of their faces, trusting that the Lord and/or hard effort will see them through. Likewise, Zimpel pushes us through the novel from hardship to hardship with the singular voice of the 19th-century pioneer.A Season of Fire and Ice only loses steam near the end. Like a heifer caught in a blizzard, the plot goes astray in the final pages, wandering off into a subplot about Praeger's black-sheep son which takes us away from the more interesting conflict between the two neighbors.Until that point, however, A Season of Fire and Ice is a stark morality tale told
Anahkwud More than 1 year ago
If you are interested in historical fiction and have an appreciation for the incredibly hard life homesteaders faced on the midwest prairies, then you will enjoy this book very much. Zimpel writes this book from multiple perspectives, giving you insights not only to the character that is narrating but, through that character's eyes, changing what judgements you may have previously formed of other characters. It's quite engaging. The plot unfolds as a series of events--from the arrival of a new homesteader to accidents, natural disasters, and the environmental dangers the small community of farmers must face. There is tension in the competition to do better than your neighbor and the necessity to help one another in times of trouble. I will not give away the ending. Even if you are somewhat bored when Zimpel spends time (necessary time, in my opinion) describing farming life or the landscapes, push on to that ending. It will be worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Gerhardt Praeger, an educated farmer, appreciates his pragmatic wife Ma as they raise seven sons on the often hostile Dakota plains. He begins to write his thoughts of events in a journal (diaries are for females) starting in 1882 with the new settler Leo Beidierman and the Swede¿s widow. Over the years as he often scribes in his journal Gerhardt finds Beiderman¿s success and luck unbelievable and envies the man especially after Beiderman befriends his two youngest sons. Still when natural disasters occur, all the people residing nearby help one another even when they are jealous of one of them. --- A SEASON OF FIRE AND ICE is a superb historical that provides insight into the harsh life of living in the Dakota during the 1880s. Nature plays such a strong role in shaping the residents that it is more than just background, it serves as a powerful antagonist at times with floods, blizzards, and droughts often. Loyalty within families and with neighbors is the norm when calamity happens whether that be man-made or natural. Americana readers will enjoy this first hand fictionalized account (and its ¿interleafs¿) of five years in the lives of people in the late nineteenth century. --- Harriet Klausner