Michael Harm is a farmer's son in the Bavarian Rhineland who dreams of excitement and freedom--the sort of life enjoyed by Uncas, the hero in his favorite novel, The Last of the Mohicans. Every day Michael toils beside his brother in the vineyards wishing he could be a blacksmith, a singer, or an adventurer. One day the Harm family receives a letter from America offering a blacksmithing apprenticeship in a relative's Cleveland, Ohio wagon-making shop to the eldest son. Michael begs to take his brother's place, and at age fifteen, leaves his family behind for America. On a storm-tossed Atlantic crossing, he meets Charles Rauch, the son of a Cleveland wagon-maker, his future rival in carriage-making and love. Michael arrives in an America he can barely comprehend, confronting riots in New York, anti-immigrant bigotry in Cleveland, and his uncle, a cruel blacksmith master. Michael struggles through his indenture, inspired by rags-to-riches stories such as that of presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. He receives his freedom dues just as war threatens to destroy the country he now calls home. It is not the Civil War, but Cleveland's post-war Gilded Age, that forces Michael to face his greatest challenge--an accelerating machine age destined to wipe out his livelihood forever. Populated by characters both historical and invented, The Last of the Blacksmiths is a tale of the disruption and dispersal of an immigrant family, the twilight of the artisan crafts, and the efforts of each generation to shape its destiny.
|Publisher:||Epicenter Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)|
About the Author
Claire Gebben was born and raised on the southeast side of Cleveland in Moreland Hills, Ohio. She's of German and Scottish descent, but the German side of my family were more meticulous record-keepers. In 1980 she earned a BA in Psychology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with her husband, she moved seven times in seven years, living in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Cleveland, and Buffalo before landing in Seattle, Washington. She's worked as a resource center manager, newspaper columnist, newsletter editor, ghostwriter, in desktop publishing, multi-media, and communications, all the while raising a family and pursuing her first love of reading and writing. In 2011, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing through the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island, Washington. Her writing has appeared in Shark Reef, The Speculative Edge, Soundings Review, The Fine Line, and ColumbiaKIDS e-zine. The Last of the Blacksmiths is her first novel. For more information, go to clairegebben.com.
Read an Excerpt
The mood of the mob shifted, the cheers turning to hisses and snarls. People began running for cover, calling out with hoarse shouts, diving into doorways and behind barrels. Others appeared in the windows of the buildings, shaking their fists at something farther up the street. Silhouettes of men appeared on the rooftops, sticks or clubs--or rifles--in their hands. Alarm turning to terror, I retreated the way I had come.
But I didn't get far. Objects began to rain from the sky--rocks, furniture, buckets of slop. Near me, a brick thunked a man on his shoulder. He cried out, spun in a circle to see what had hit him, then collapsed. Afraid to go on, I pressed back against a building. Before me, a farmer and his wagon had become trapped by the crowd. His horse was growing agitated, rearing back and snorting in distress. In the back of the farmer's wagon were two enormous hogs.
The farmer stood and shouted to clear the way, but no one paid him any mind. Then a group of young men noticed him, and one tried to climb up on the seat. The farmer pushed the ruffian off, but two others clambered up from behind, lifting the man up under his arms and dumping him over the side. The horse whinnied and bucked. Hands reached up to unfasten its harness. Horse and wagon separated, the mob heaved the wagon over on its side. As the wagon tipped, the hogs spilled to the ground with great squeals, struggled to their feet and barreled off, knocking several people down in the crowd.
Around the overturned cart, men and women were piling barrels and crates to form a makeshift barrier. The horse continued to rear and buck, its eyes white with terror. A gunshot rang out. The horse dropped to its forelegs with a groan, then lay full out on the ground.
The gunshot woke me from my stupor and I ran, arms over my head, praying to God no brick would drop from the sky to end my life. As I fled from the melee, a few ruffians jostled past me, their arms loaded with bricks and stones. I could not believe anyone would run into that riot. Did freedom drive men mad?
I reached the street with the iron rails, but the street sign said Bowery. What happened to Chatham Street? Frightened out of my wits, I dashed blindly ahead, weaving and dodging the other pedestrians, not slowing until my breath came in huffs and a stitch dug into my side.
Coming to myself, I halted at last at a wide intersection with a fountain in the center. This was a fashionable district unlike anything Franz had described, the paving stones swept clean, the couples and families dressed in fine new clothes, carrying baskets and parasols.
I realized the worst had come to pass. I was lost, and had no idea of my way back.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Claire Gebben has written a engrossing novel of not only her family history, but the history of German immigrants in the mid-1850s. As a descendent of Iowa farmer German immigrants, I found her story an interesting read. Well written, with strong characters and a steady flow, Gebben has produced a compelling first novel.