This novel based on the real life of labor activist Annie Clements traces the consequences of the 25-year-old's decision in 1913 to stand up for herself and the entire copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan, where men risked their lives for meager salaries underground and the women worked for a similar pittance in the houses of the elite.
Mary Doria Russell is one of those rare authors who can make genre her playground ... Russell demonstrates her skill in the way she makes what otherwise may be a textbook dialectical struggle into something personal and homegrown ... Many different characters in this situation get their turn in the narrative driver's seat...This allows the reader to get a well-rounded view of this tug-of-war. It is this personal touch that assists the modern audience in understanding how and why the harsh tactics of the company were so effective by first making clear the vulnerable position of the workers and their families ... The writing makes her approach all the more successful. Her prose is appropriately simplistic, but rich with nuance. By cutting down on the window dressing, Russell is able to focus in on characterization through dialogue and body language which represents her true authorial muscle. Nearly every conversation is a loaded one and close readers will be rewarded for an attention to detail ... But since we are so laser-focused on the people of this story, a noticeable stumbling point in the portrayal of Calumet & Hecla manager James MacNaughton begins to stand out. Though his tactics are true to the history books and the villain shoes fit, his demeanor is far more robotic and efficiency-obsessed than felt realistic...Even with that minor infraction, this book is a triumph ... Astutely researched, the writing of this book was clearly a labor of love for the author. She stays true to the heart of this lesser-known part of American history while tweaking just enough to give it the momentum and power it needed to make a compelling story.
Russell...mines the life of real-life heroine and labor activist Annie Clements to shine a fictional spotlight on the often under-reported and under-appreciated contributions of women to the early-twentieth-century labor movement ... Fictionalized history with an important message that will resonate with contemporary readers.
Russell’s latest historical, a carefully researched rendering of the Copper Country strike of 1913–1914, pays meticulous attention to detail that is often fascinating but occasionally tedious ... The painstakingly comprehensive narrative and omniscient point of view make for a deliberate pace, but they also ensure readers completely understand what happened. The tale is often bleak, but it serves as a worthwhile counterpoint to historical writing centered on 'great men.'