Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

HFV Book Tour for MESABI PIONEERS by Russell Hill and Jeffrey Smith

on May 20, 2015
 04_Mesabi Pioneers_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL
I’m blogging today as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for MESABI PIONEERS.
This novel gave me an insight into a period of history that I know little about: the search for iron ore in Northern Minnesota in the 1890’s. Arthur Maki is the main protagonist – a Finnish immigrant who has joined a work crew and hopes to reunite with his wife and young son before long. The group of characters is quite varied, and each has his own personality which is aptly portrayed. The men spend their days mining for ore and seeking new sources of ore – dangerous work. Tensions can be high and personalities clash.
Well-written and interesting, this story taught me about the Mesabi Iron Range — something I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I had never heard of!
02_Mesabi Pioneers Cover
About Mesabi Pioneers
Publication Date: October 6, 2014
Lempi Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
238 Pages Genre: Historical Fiction
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READ AN EXCERPT.
In the early 1890s, a group of brothers discovered iron ore in the dense pine woods of northern Minnesota. Mesabi Pioneers tells the story of the immigrants who dug that ore out of the ground, who carved towns from trees, and who built new lives for themselves and their families.
Arthur Maki, a Finnish immigrant known for his carpentry skills, has been hired by the persuasive and poetic Leonidas “Lon” Merritt to join a crew of explorers in the forest. From this remote and formidable locale, Arthur must construct a camp and foster a community into which he can bring his wife and son.
The camp, which the Merritts call Mountain Iron, sits on what Lon believes to be a huge lode of iron ore. However, the rest of the world thinks the Merritts are crazy. While Arthur builds a camp with a Chippewa Indian everyone calls Charlie and a French-Chippewa fur trader named Richardson, the other members of the team explore the surrounding woods for more caches of iron. When a second lode is discovered at Biwabik, Arthur and the rest of the crew know the finding is real. And the iron mining world knows it, too.
As the mine gets deeper and mining operations expand, the camp crowds with a diversity of ethnic and cultural groups. Tragedy strikes in ways large and small. And it is from the ashes of destruction that Arthur finds the community he has been seeking.

Praise for Mesabi Pioneers

“…a refreshingly enjoyable read… Hill and Smith kindle complicated emotions, important questions and a driving curiosity about Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range.

The novel’s opening chapters give us a remarkable point of view, a vision of the Iron Range before it was anything like our modern understanding of the place. The size of the forest, the difficulty of travel, the majesty of the Missabe hills before they were opened up and moved like chess pieces: we see all of this in fresh prose.

[W]here “Mesabi Pioneers” thrills (at least for this student of Range history) is in its dramatic imagination of what people faced in the wilds of 1890s Mountain Iron, and how the mighty wheels of industrial commerce slowly crushed the spirits of the ambitious Merritt Brothers. Fiction, yes. But the spirit rings true. Knowing how it turns out in real life only enhances the reading of this book.”
-Aaron Brown, Hibbing Daily Tribune andminnesotabrown.com

“Hill and Smith pepper their story with some very good character development (this book is as much a story of Arthur Maki’s personal growth as it is anything else), plenty of sarcastic humor, and a good deal of research into a period never before explored in historical fiction. In their handling, the enterprising and occasionally cutthroat, bygone world of iron mining comes vividly alive. A strong debut installment.”
-Charlotte Kirsch, Historical Novel Society

“A wonderful book. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
-Scott Hall, KAXE, Northern Community Radio

“In Mesabi Pioneers, Jeffrey Smith has skillfully crafted a wonderful story that respects the historical facts while bringing the experience of these pioneers to life. The story of the Finns and Scandinavians who worked the iron ore mines and were joined by others from Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere is effectively told. This book is a steeped in the social history and physical geography of this region in Minnesota that played such a significant role in the economic rise of the United States. I understand that this is the first volume in a planned trilogy. I am already looking forward to the next volume. In a few words, this is good creative writing with an enjoyable style.”
-James Dilisio, author Maryland Geography

“What a fascinating story, with finely drawn characters and compelling subject matter. The authors take us inside the hearts and souls of newly arrived immigrant pioneers, full of hope and promise, who accomplished extraordinary feats under dire circumstances; and the Native Americans who watched their homeland undergo such dramatic and irrevocable chance. I learned such a lot about the history of the Iron Range territory in my native state. I highly recommend it.”
-Kathryn Leigh Scott, actress and author, Down and Out in Beverly Heels

About the Author

03_Jeffrey Smith Author

Jeffrey Smith began his love of letters at fourteen on a Smith-Corona electric typewriter borrowed from his father. He is a full-time writer, homemaker and stay-at-home parent in Berlin, Maryland. Also an accomplished distance runner, Jeffrey has completed 16 marathons, seven 24-hour relay races, and multiple ultra-runs, including several 100-mile races. He blogs about writing, running, and parenting at rustlingreed.com/blog.

For more information visit mesabiproject.com. Follow Mesabi Pioneers on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for making me part of the tour and for my review copy!
Here’s a You Tube video trailer about the book:
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