I was initially attracted to The Cold Millions by Jess Walter because it’s set mostly in Spokane, and I’m from the Pacific Northwest. But when I saw it was set in the early 1900s during the time of labor rights protests and suffragists, I was even more intrigued!
Gig and Rye Dolan are adventure-seeking vagrants. They’ve spent their young lives jumping trains in search of their next job, drink, meal, or warm place to sleep. They each fall in love with two very different women: Ursula the Great, a theater performer who sings with a live cougar, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a passionate activist for workers’ rights. But when tensions rise, the brothers are sucked into a bigger (and more dangerous) adventure than they ever imagined.
*I received this book for free from the publisher (Harper Books) in exchange for an honest review.
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The Cold Millions by Jess Walter: My Thoughts
This story was unique, and the injustice it portrayed had me all fired up. It had a little bit of mystery/intrigue, a little bit of adventure, and a whole lot of fascinating history. It’s filled with vagrants, cops, madams, rich magnates, performers, laborers, and idealists.
One of my favorite things about historical fiction: the atmosphere. I love getting caught up in another place and time. Fortunately, this book didn’t disappoint! I felt like I was walking the streets of downtown Spokane, listening to union speeches, surrounded by rowdy bars and vaudeville theaters.
We get to see through many characters’ eyes: from Pinkerton-esque hired detectives to feminist activists to hard-working Rye Dolan just trying to scrape by. We can practically hear the rushing river below us, and the whistling of the trains riding by.
Another thing I really enjoyed: the subtle element of surprise. I love when seemingly unrelated details come together to form a full picture that you don’t expect, and this story did that well.
It did start off a little slow, so it took me a little time to get into the story at first. But overall, The Cold Millions is engrossing, and you’ll root for Rye with all your heart. Highly recommended!
Rating: 4.25 (out of 5) stars
Publication date: October 27th, 2020