The Cold Millions
This is a story of two brothers who get mixed up in the labor movement in 1909 in Spokane, Washington. They're from Montana and when their mother died, their last surviving parent, they go to the big city to find work and make a future for themselves. But the brothers end up at a labor protest and they end up in jail. As a result of their circumstances, they get all mixed up with the based-on real life activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Hers was not a name I knew, but I love reading about under explored, unexamined periods of history. Something else I loved about this book is the wonderful cast of characters. It's at its heart a story of two brothers, but the whole roster of supporting characters is deep and fabulous. There's a vaudeville actress whose character might be my favorite; her stage name is Ursula the Great and her backstory is fantastic. I would highly recommend this for fans of This Tender Land.
“One of the most captivating novels of the year.” – Washington Post
A Best Book of the Year: Bloomberg | Boston Globe | Chicago Public Library | Chicago Tribune | Esquire | Kirkus | New York Public Library | New York Times Book Review (Historical Fiction) | NPR’s Fresh Air | O Magazine | Washington Post | Publishers Weekly | Seattle Times| USA Today
A Library Reads Pick | An Indie Next Pick
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins comes another “literary miracle” (NPR)—a propulsive, richly entertaining novel about two brothers swept up in the turbulent class warfare of the early twentieth century.
An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice, and betrayal set against the panoramic backdrop of an early twentieth-century America that eerily echoes our own time, The Cold Millions offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation grappling with the chasm between rich and poor, between harsh realities and simple dreams.
The Dolans live by their wits, jumping freight trains and lining up for day work at crooked job agencies. While sixteen-year-old Rye yearns for a steady job and a home, his older brother, Gig, dreams of a better world, fighting alongside other union men for fair pay and decent treatment. Enter Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar and introduces the brothers to a far more dangerous creature: a mining magnate determined to keep his wealth and his hold on Ursula.
Dubious of Gig’s idealism, Rye finds himself drawn to a fearless nineteen-year-old activist and feminist named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. But a storm is coming, threatening to overwhelm them all, and Rye will be forced to decide where he stands. Is it enough to win the occasional battle, even if you cannot win the war?
Featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers, The Cold Millions is a tour de force from a “writer who has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors” (Boston Globe).