Book Talk: The Cold Millions: A Novel by Jess Walter
“ One of the most captivating novels of the year.”
About the Book
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?
Reviews & What Readers Say
“ One might think that reading about union organizing in 1909 has no resonance in 2020, but as I was reading, all I could think was wow, these things are still happening today. Wealthy men want to control society to benefit themselves only, women who don't act in a matter that is considered docile are ridiculed, people at the bottom of the economic rung are scorned, and eventually when people have had enough, they will protest against injustice. The Cold Millions is a brilliant book to get lost in, that makes you think that maybe we will make it out of these troubled times as apparently they have always been with us in one form or another. I give Cold Millions my highest recommendation."
―Diane, Amazon Reader's Review
“ Full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Jess Walter’s novels and short stories. I “discovered” him while reading “Beautiful Ruins” in 2012, and immediately consumed his entire oeuvre. Reading this novel during COVID-19 “stay at home/work from home” mode, gave me a wonderful chance to escape to Spokane, Washington in 1909 where it is even worse that it is here! I’d like to comment on a highly effective narrative technique Walter uses to provide pathos and also ratchet up tension and suspense, without spoiling it for anyone. I will only say that the sections of the novel that were not chapters, but were first person narratives, were utterly brilliant. I held my breath through each and every one!"
Note: Now available. Click here
Jess Walter is the author of six novels, most recently the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins (2012). He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper’s, McSweeney’s, Playboy and other publications. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.