The Dolans live by their wits, jumping freight trains and lining up for day work at crooked job agencies. While sixteen-year-old Rye yearns for a steady job and a home, his older brother, Gig, dreams of a better world, fighting alongside other union men for fair pay and decent treatment. Enter Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar and introduces the brothers to a far more dangerous creature: a mining magnate determined to keep his wealth and his hold on Ursula.
While its refracted, nonlinear narrative centers on early progressive fights, The Cold Millions feels timed perfectly to this moment of stark income inequality, where the crevasse between billionaires and workers widens and activism increases ... Swelling with empathy for the underdogs (but never too preachy), Walter’s novel reveals people caught in the enormous sweep of history as they strive to better their circumstances ... I haven’t encountered a more satisfying and moving novel about the struggle for workers’ rights in America.
There’s an election next week that will mark the climax of an exhausting, dramatic year, but if you have the time and head space to read new-release fiction, it would be well spent on The Cold Millions ... It’s a tremendous work, a vivid, propulsive, historical novel with a politically explosive backdrop that reverberates through our own ... Walter is a Spokane native, and he captures both the depth and breadth of this moment in his hometown’s history ... gives us the grand tour, with a bounty of crime and intrigue and adventure anchored by an unforgettable ensemble cast ... About half of the novel is narrated in the third person from Rye’s point of view, but Walter brings in a multitude of first-person voices to bring the world roaring to life.
Jess Walter has fashioned his eighth novel, The Cold Millions, out of the free speech riots that erupted in Spokane, Wash., in the early years of the 20th century ... Walter dramatizes the melee and its aftermath with a lively cast of characters both invented and real ... Walter’s latest novel is more hybrid beast than those earlier books: not quite fiction and not history but a splicing of the two, so that the invented rises to the occasion of the real and the real guides and determines the fate of the invented ... The Cold Millions ends as a eulogy for a certain kind of man: white, fair-minded, nonideological, inclined toward the sidelines. Had Walter inserted a time machine into his book after all, and flown Rye to the current year, it’s hard to imagine even someone so innately neutral looking on passively as history comes for him, too.