It took me time to read this book, close to 1000 pages. This epic takes
the reader from the gold rush in the Yukon to America's incursions in
Cuba and then the Phillipines, with lengthy stays in Wilmington, NC,
New York City, and other parts of the United States around the turn
of the 20th century. Sayles captures the lives of regular people,
communicating in authentic voices and reflecting their times. I can
only say that it is an incredible look at history through individuals
and families caught up in the times.
I particularly was intrigued by the Lunceford family. Driven from
Wilmington by racists, Dr. Lunceford attempts to start life anew in
New York peddling cures door-to-door, while his son Junior joins
the Army, and pianist Jessie ends up working in a factory in
dehumanizing conditions. Grimness, pain, and sorrow abound, but
there is some joy as well. As I read the final chapters, I was sorry
these tales of many were coming to an end.
The final pages of the book shock and lead to much reflection about
what was just read. For those interested in authentic historical
fiction peopled by well-rounded characters (interspersed with true
figures from history), this book is highly recommended.