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THE BIG BURN by Jeanette Ingold


by Jeanette Ingold

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-216470-7
Publisher: Harcourt

Born of sparks from trains, the working fires of homesteaders and miners, the campfires of hoboes, and lightning coursing down from the summer sky, the fires joined as a wall of flame, an “orange hell” that consumed two-and-a-half-million acres of public forest land by the time it was done. It was called the Big Burn, and “August 20, 1910, would be remembered as the day the mountains roared.” Ingold (Airfield, 1999, etc.) develops the stories of three teens involved in and affected by the drama of the raging fires. Their narratives are leisurely developed, and it is almost two-thirds of the way into the long novel before the pace of their stories escalates to parallel the rise of the fire itself. Jarrett, the brother of the forest ranger, Lizbeth, the homesteader determined to keep her land, and Seth, the enlisted man in the all-black Twenty-fifth Infantry hoping to find and prove his courage, are the three characters whose lives intertwine in the face of a natural disaster. When the fires finally join and the story picks up its pace, an exciting tale ensues. The air turns orange, the gale-force winds rage, trees tumble through the air like sticks, and the roar of the fire bounces off of the canyon walls as the fire sweeps through Idaho and into Montana. Readers with a taste for sprawling tales will find their efforts rewarded. An afterword by the author and suggestions for further reading will inform readers more about this spectacular but little-known event in American history. (Fiction. 12-15)