Rosellen Brown is a distinguished author whose novels include Tender Mercies, Before and After and Civil Wars. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary publications including Best American Short Stories, Best Short Stories of the Century and the O. Henry Prize Stories. She is the guest of the Cliff Dwellers Book Club on Saturday morning, January 26, where she will discuss her latest novel, The Lake on Fire.
The discussion begins at 11:00 am in the Sullivan Room at the Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd Floor, and ends about noon. The discussion is free and open to all, and we encourage attendees to remain for lunch to enjoy the great food (credit cards accepted for non-members) and partake of the great view of the city. Please reserve your space for lunch by contacting email@example.com.
The Lake on Fire superbly depicts the class and cultural tensions that were pervasive in Chicago just before, during and slightly after the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Worker discontent in the city was still simmering in the aftermath of the deadly clashes of the Battle of the Viaduct in 1877 and the Haymarket Affair of 1886. Economic conditions and labor strife were worsening because of the Panic of 1893, which soon led to a depression.
Ms. Brown embodies these tensions magnificently in the characters of Chaya-Libbe Shaderowsky and her younger brother Asher, and Gregory Stillman and his brother Ned. Chaya and Asher were Jews whose poor family had left Eastern Europe for a better life in America. Gregory and Ned were born with “a silver spoon in their mouths” and were part of Chicago’s economic and cultural elite. Yet the author brilliantly weaves a narrative spiced with romance, idealism, greed and violence where these four characters’ lives are inextricably connected with each other.
The teeming Maxwell Street Market surrounded by tenements and sweat shops come alive in this book. Asher’s gutsy escapades on the Midway during the Fair keep the reader amazed and surprised. The inclusion of historical personages in the story, especially Jane Addams, is truly a delight. The Lake on Fire is definitely a must read for any lover of Chicago historical fiction.