Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review for The Woods by Ronald Lee Geigle. Historical fiction at its best.

The Woods
By Ron Geigle
Genre: Historical Fiction

Blasting railways into the side of mountains, scaling Douglas firs that tower 200 feet. These visions draw 18-year-old Albert Weissler to a job with the Skybillings Logging Company in the high mountains of Washington State. But a train crash on a mountainside that kills a friend, and Albert's discovery that it was sabotage, quickly dash boyhood dreams and launch a saga of love, grand dreams, and transformation in the turbulent world of big-timber logging and labor unrest in late-1930s America.

This is The Woods, part coming of age story, part historical novel. It is the story of Albert learning to survive in a dangerous and unforgiving environment; Albert's mother, Lydia, struggling to restart her life after Albert's father is killed in the woods; WWI veteran and Skybillings owner, Bud Cole, trying to rebuild his dream after the market crash destroyed him; and savvy firebrand Clare Ristall campaigning to win a political election, build a new union - and win Lydia's love.

The Woods is a beautiful panorama of lives and dreams during one of the most defining moments of American history, as have's and have-not's, the powerful and the ordinary, struggle to survive in the wake of economic upheaval. This is a book that paints the inner complexities and nuances of its characters as beautifully as it portrays the raw splendor of the Northwest's ice-topped peaks and unrelenting natural power of the woods themselves.

Author Bio
Ronald Lee Geigle grew up in the Pacific Northwest.  He was born in Monroe, Washington, and attended Meadowdale Senior High School.  After graduating from the University of Washington, he headed for Washington, DC, where he has spent the past 30+ years as a speechwriter, congressional aide, and public relations consultant. He worked for Washington State Senator Warren Magnuson and US Representative Norm Dicks, and founded the public relations firm Polidais.
"You learn a lot about people over that many years," says Geigle. "And you learn a lot about politics. It is always a surprise to me, despite all these years in DC, what those two forces do to one another—and not necessarily in a good way."
Geigle makes politics a central part of his novel, The Woods, which tells a coming-of-age story set during a period of labor unrest in the Pacific Northwest during the late 1930s. As the nation emerges from the Great Depression, both haves and have-nots struggle for financial survival and, more importantly, to achieve their dreams in the face of adversity, danger, and political ambition.
Geigle won fiction writing awards from the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in 1997 and 1998 for two chapters from his novel.


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5 Star Review

I received the book from the touring host for an honest review. 

I must admit, after reading two or three chapters of this book I had to serve the net, looking for pictures of Seakomish Valley, I was not disappointed. The author gave an actual account of this beautiful place. As a hiker, I would have loved to walk the hills, finding it fascinating at every turn, enjoying the towering trees the author recounted in his book with deliberate strokes of his color pallet of words that really puts you inside the Fir woods. You can smell the sawdust, and oil, the sweat of the laboring men, and even feel the rain as it pelts down on you, soaking you to the bone, and eyeing the view that he so frequently describes. It was such a realistic description of the Valley that you really feel that you know the place.

The characters in the books feels like acquaintances, as if you will walk down the road and meet them as old friends. The book is filled with so many interesting personas that made them life-like and believable. You get a real sense of the hard times the people faced, the conditions they lived in but also the care and love that was still there. The hope that kept them moving forward.  

The book was written right after the Great Depression of the 1930's. Work was scarce, money even scarcer and people's need to be heard demanded attention from the Empires that still excited. 
Failure was not an option, not for men like Bud Cole. His willingness to fight with all his might, to use the resources to his disposal, still believing in the goodness of men; really stood out the most. 
The young eighteen year old that just started in life, Albert Weissler who is working hard in the company his father once owned. Learning the hard way but yet kept his innocence, his genuine care for his friends and family amidst the hard work and the flaring tempers of co-workers. He was not afraid of doing the right thing even if it looked stupid to the rest.
When Unions rose during these tumultuous time, trying to better the conditions of the workers, especially those in the lumber and shipping industry; tension became even worse. You could question their behavior as they stir the members to uprising and violence. But they genuinely believed they did if for the betterment of the people.   
The crew of Skybuillings was working hard, using their wit and determination to get the job done, despite the heat and pouring rain. When a fatal accident brought them almost to a standstill, their job security was tested once again.
When Albert revealed the sabotage that caused the accident, the tension flared between this group of lumberjacks and the only woman, Zoe their faithful cook.  Their courage and skills were tested at every turn. With Witstrop breathing down their necks to build the trestle in time and get the huge trunks of wood down the slopes of the mountains, it seemed that all was lost as Bud and his crew worked-almost inhumanly-to the demands of the big bosses, while protecting their camp. 
A great story of depth, human conflicts and emotions as you learn more about this period. Learning once again that men are truly stronger than they think they are. Winning the odds, making the best of the situation and always fighting to stay ahead of the pack. 

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