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.
The Woods is an amazing book. I’ll start with that. I’ve lived in the rural coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest for the last 15 years, so I’m well-acquainted with loggers and the associated family heritage they share. And I’m a sucker for historical novels, as well, in addition to growing up in a very pro-union household. So this novel focuses on areas of personal interest and knowledge for me.
This region has had a rich and very rugged history, and it shines through in Mr. Geigle’s epic novel about the Washington Cascades logging industries struggles during the depression. It includes a rich cast of characters, a strong and vivid description of the scenery, industry, and plight of the logger during this turbulent era, and the birth of the AFL-CIO, and the violence and instability that preceded the formation of this alliance. I love the character development of this book, and the varied histories of its protagonists and antagonists and their uneasy interaction with each other. The brutal tapestry that the author weaves is beyond compare. It builds on itself to a brilliant crescendo, and breaks, leaving me wanting to continue on down the course of the characters individual lives beyond the end of the book. I highly recommend this book but warn you, it is not light reading.
This book is dazzling in how it colors this dark and dreary time, and place.
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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