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The Big Burn

Review

The Big Burn

In light of the recent wildfires in Colorado and Arizona, THE BIG BURN is an interesting book, but it would certainly be noteworthy under any circumstances. The story follows two young men and a young woman as they encounter and combat the infamously ferocious Montana wildfires of 1910. Jeanette Ingold deftly switches perspectives throughout the tale to keep the reader interested in this well-crafted historical novel.

Jarrett, the brother of a forest ranger, is on a quest to prove himself to his gruff father; Lizbeth, living with her widowed aunt, wants to preserve her adopted Western home; and Seth, a young black soldier, is dedicated to serving his country and overcoming racial prejudice. Apart and together, they transcend traditional teenage roles and attempt to save their homes from the fires that ravaged the Montana and Idaho wilderness during the summer of 1910. Some of the plot developments may seem cliché (romance blooms where you'd probably expect --- close calls end with last-second rescues, etc.), but overall the adventure is unlike any other book available. This overlooked event in US history provides a wealth of excitement for a talented writer. The parallel stories of the three protagonists allow for several viewpoints of every episode; Ingold paints a comprehensive portrait of the true historical events of the period.

Ingold intersperses the chapters with "field notes" chronicling the wildfires and wilderness firefighting from an objective standpoint. These sections are actually where she writes best and they are a testament to the thorough research that went into writing the book. Both historically accurate and dramatically engaging, THE BIG BURN is a great choice for anyone who is interested in learning about the phenomena of forest fires while also reading a great story.

Reviewed by Lowell Putnam on June 1, 2002

The Big Burn
by Jeanette Ingold

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2002
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 0152164707
  • ISBN-13: 9780152164706