The Big Burn

The Big Burn

For those interested in apocalyptic/disaster fiction and/or survival stories, readers should enjoy this historical adventure novel. It's Idaho, 1910. One of the worst forest fires in America's history known as "The Big Burn" is vividly portrayed from the viewpoint of three diverse teens: Jarrett, estranged from his father and with an older forest ranger brother, Seth, a black soldier void of guidance or a positive role model, and Lizabeth who lives with an aunt conflicted as to whether to make a go of the 160 acre homestead or just sell its timber and return east to civilization.

As the dry timber ignites, any able-bodied man is hired. Footloose Jarret signs on as a firefighter--it is on- the-job training -- the days before any kind of training or technology. He's reacquainted with his older brother. He's a fast learner with responsibility thrust upon him and displays heroic leadership as his crew is engulfed by nature's inferno -- "The conflagration raging through the gulch touched off a stand of snake grass a few feet from Jarrett's head. Choking...for breath, Jarrett willed himself to stay conscious and keep his wits...His heart hit against his chest, and his eyes and ears felt ready to fly from his head."

Physically and socially Isolated, Lizabeth meets Jarrett as the fires threatens the homestead she has become attached to. She's interested and attracted to him and it may be mutual but will he survive fighting the flames? The soldier Seth has the makings of a career soldier but is being influenced by a manipulative, selfish fellow soldier. In the end, will he assert himself and heroically do both his duty and what is right?

The emotional baggage and coming-of-age of these three individuals clash, are forced together by circumstances beyond their control, and their endurance and courage tested to the extreme -- a real trial by fire!

Further books on the adventure and survival bookshelf might include those edited by Lamar Underwood such as The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told and the anthologies published by Adrenaline Books including: Best Adventure and Survival Stories, Rough Water, Rescue, and Adrenaline 2000. Of course, don't forget Outside magazine. 292 pages. Montana Book Award

Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, High School Librarian

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