In the tiny timber town of Cordelia, Idaho, everyone has heard tales of the Applegates. Local legend says their family line boasts some of the greatest lumberjacks to ever roam the American West, and from the moment young Weldon stepped foot in the deep Cordelia woods as a child, he dreamed of joining the rowdy ranks of his ancestors in their epic, axe-swinging adventures. But at the beginning of the twentieth century, times are changing fast, and the jacks are dying out.
On his deathbed nearly a century later, Weldon Applegate recounts his life in all its glory, filled with tall tales writ large with murder, mayhem, avalanches and bootlegging. It’s the story of dark pine forests brewing with ancient magic, and Weldon’s struggle as a boy to keep his father’s inherited timber claim, the Lost Lot, from the ravenous clutches of Linden Laughlin.
Braided with haunting saloon tunes and just the right dose of magic, The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All is a novel bursting with heart, humor, and an utterly transporting adventure that is sure to sweep you away into the beauty of the tall snowy mountain timber.
What I Thought:
The Great Glorious Goodamn of It All is a fascinating slice of Americana, showing a bygone age when men were men, and mechanisation had yet to tear the heart out of the western nations.
Weldon Applegate lies in a hospital bed – for reasons that we will find out – and falls back into his memories of being a 13-year-old boy, living in lumberjack country in the early 1900s. He remembers the townsfolk – including bootlegger Peg Ramsey and Annie, the maker of the finest hooch in the St Anne.
In his 13th year, Weldon’s reasonably quiet life becomes dominated by a parcel of land his father owns. The Lost Lot has been abandoned by companies and individuals as just too darn hard and dangerous to cut trees from, but Weldon’s father is lured back into the lumberjack life by Linden Laughlin who is a legend in the trade, but not at all what he seems…
The phrase ‘coming of age novel’ is often overused, but it’s really apt with this book. Young Weldon is forced to learn some hard lessons while coming face-to-face with real evil – this is proper, biblical good versus evil stuff, set down in the middle of America.
We know that Weldon ultimately triumphs as he is now 99 years of age, but how he second guesses himself and eventually learns how to lead is really stirring stuff, especially when in the bulk of the book he is so young.
Much of this book is a love letter to a bygone era, and some of it is sheer poetry – some of it is profanity, which many people are not fond of, but I felt it was perfectly in keeping with a rough-and-tumble gang of lumberjacks.
I really would have loved to see some of this old America – much of what Josh Ritter writes about so evocatively is gone now and only exists in novels like this – but that world is so beautifully described here that you can begin to get a sense of it, and it’s written so that you can almost smell the pine trees and hear the manual labour of those men. Very nicely done.
The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All is published by Harper360.
About the Author:
Josh Ritter is a songwriter from Moscow, Idaho. His albums include The Animal Years and So Runs the World Away. Bright’s Passage was his first novel. He lives in New York.
You can find out more about Josh, his writing, and his music on his website.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the UK release of The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All – why not check out some of the other participating blogs, as below?
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.