The 1900 gold rush to Nome, Alaska, sweeps up Esther (Essie) Crummey, the resilient and pragmatic title character of this evocative historical novel, Brown's promising debut. A Minnesota farm girl, Essie marries a drifter named Leonard Crummey, a volatile man burdened by a painful past. They begin a life together on their own fledgling farm, but the birth of a deformed son, Gabriel, and the devastation of their farm by a flood turn Leonard into a "hard husband." His alcoholism and unilateral decision to sell much of their land corrodes their marriage. After further disaster, Essie leaves. Headed for her sister's in Seattle, Essie helps in a dockside accident on a Nome-bound ship, an intervention through which she meets Nate Deaton, the earnest, East Coast-educated young foreman for the Cape Nome Company. He hires her for the Nome venture, and mutual respect and conversation draw them together despite their varied backgrounds. But a beleaguered, die-hard Leonard follows his wife to Nome, where he threatens the budding devotion between Nate and Essie. This is an eloquent, memorable first novel, with high-powered characters whose prickly exteriors, created out of the need to survive, hide affectingly yearning and haunted souls. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This novel takes place around the turn of the 20th century, first in Minnesota, then in Nome during the gold rush. The author based the story on his own grandfather's adventures as a mining engineer in Alaska, but the main character is a young woman named Esther. She is a farm girl in Minnesota who marries a hired hand and tries to turn him into a farmer when basically he is a person who can't get anything right and always blames others for it. When their young son, who is born stunted on one side, is killed in a fire that is her husband's fault, she leaves him to live with her sister in the West and ends up traveling to Alaska to care for a mining company's horses. On her own, she starts a number of small businesses, but is always fearful that her husband will find her. When she gets word that he is coming, she sets out to the wilderness and ends up falling in love with the foreman of the mining company. Esther, her husband and the mining engineer, along with others, are well-developed characters and the settings of Minnesota and Alaska are well researched and authentic.
In 1900, Nome, AK, looks a whole lot better to adventurous Essie than the Midwest-but what if her husband comes after her? A promising debut. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
All about passion, whether for flesh or fortune, romance or adventure, this sweeping debut renders poetically the dynamics of desire. As the 20th century dawns, intrepid Essie Crummey joins gold prospectors heading far north. Stark, remote, exotic Alaska, she senses, will free her from Midwestern malaise, the small life of a farmer's wife. A fugitive from an abusive marriage, she draws close to Nate Deaton, visionary foreman of the Cape Nome Company, whose dreams are Promethean-he intends to "establish the largest steam dredge in the history of mining on the entire Seward Peninsula"-but whose spirit is gentle. Laconic, introspective, he's a bird-fancier, a bit of a nature mystic. He hires Essie to tend the company's horses, and she thrives at that tough, ministering labor. But she's haunted. Dogging her trail is her past with Leonard, the husband she has spurned. The id incarnate, a dark, rapacious brooder out of D.H. Lawrence, he's as enamored of his jug and his tantrums as he is of Essie. He is, moreover, ferociously possessive. And as he begins stalking the woman who dared flee him, she's torn between two embodiments of male energy-Nate, stalwart and strong, and Leonard, unchecked force. Violent lyricism animates Brown's prose and powerful zest drives his saga. Characters such as Major French, battle-scarred veteran of San Juan Hill, and Alexander McKenzie, a doughty entrepreneur and psychic brother to the Carnegies and Vanderbilts, help make the historical spirit of the story ring true, and descriptions of period sea-faring and gold-digging help the reader experience the past. And yet it's as a tale of perennial obsessions-greed, sex, love and fevered need-that the book really works.Bold, occasionally brutal.