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20 June 2010

Book Review: Abbeville by Jack Fuller

Title: Abbeville
Author: Jack Fuller
Publisher: Unbridled Books; Reprint edition
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Paperback: 262 pages
ISBN: 978-1936071630
Genre: Historical Fiction


About the Book:

Until the bubble burst, George Bailey never gave much thought to why his grandfather seemed so happy.

But then George’s wealth vanished, rocking his self-confidence, threatening his family’s security and making his adolescent son’s difficult life even more painful. Returning to the little Central Illinois farm town of Abbeville, where his grandfather had prospered and then fallen into ruin, flattened during the Depression, George seeks out the details of this remarkable man’s rise, fall, and spiritual rebirth, hoping he might find a way to recover himself.

Abbeville sweeps through the history of late-19th through early-21st century America—among loggers stripping the North Woods bare, at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, with French soldiers at the Battle of Verdun, into the abyss of the Depression, and finally toward the new millennium’s own nightmares. At the same time it examines life at its most intimate. How can one hold onto meaning amidst the brutally indifferent cycles of war and peace, flood and drought, boom and bust, life and death?

In clean, evocative prose that reveals the complexity of people’s moral and spiritual lives, Fuller tells the simple story of a man riding the crests and chasms of the 20th century, struggling through personal grief, war, and material failure to find a place where the spirit may repose. An American story about rediscovering where we’ve been and how we’ve come to be who we are today, Abbeville tells the tale of the world in small, of one man’s pilgrimage to come to terms with himself while learning to embrace the world around him.

My Review:

When the Dot-com craze went from boom to bust, George Bailey decided he needed to reevaluate his life, and as his world was crumbling around him, he found himself thinking of his grandfather more often than not, a man who went from a farmer to a very prosperous man until the collapse of the stock market, and yet managed to pick himself up again and carry on. Abbeville by Jack Fuller is the story of Karl Schumpeter and the lessons his grandson George learns from retracing his grandfather's steps, researching his life and through his own memories of his grandfather. Fuller's novel is based rather loosely on his own grandfather and makes for an intriguing look at history and the manner in which history repeats itself. Jack Fuller takes the reader to Abbeville, a small farm town in Illinois, where Karl's life was forever changed.
Karl's father sent him to be an apprentice to his Uncle John Schumpeter who first teaches him to keep ledgers and where he learned the logging trade and a few life lessons that served him well later in life, courtesy of the Dutchman Hoekstra. After his time in Michigan, Karl headed to Chicago where he quickly found himself on the trading floors. Much to his delight, the girl he had been sweet on was also in Chicago that summer apprenticing as a seamstress and Karl and Cristina began to plan a life together. The reader is drawn into the rich history of logging and transitioned easily to the trading floors of Chicago, leading up to the stock market crash of 1929, The Great Depression and WWI. Through it all, the reader grows closer to Karl, a young man who has a tender heart and an eagerness to learn. Fuller takes the reader through the tumultuous times and demonstrates the strength, courage and tenacity to ride the currents of not only the prosperous times, but also the desperate times, of which Karl experiences his fair share.
Abbeville is an astonishingly beautiful novel of subtle lessons passed down through generations and through the memory of George, the reader learns about five generations and the amazing history that accompanies those generations in a rapidly paced novel. The lessons Karl passed down are subtle, yet powerful ones and they are lessons George ultimately recalls and shares with his son Rob. Life is rarely an easy ride and the measure of a person can often be found in how well they deal with the hardest times in their lives. I would not hesitate to recommend Abbeville to any reader, especially those interested in history and multi-generational family relationships. Abbeville is a quick and powerful read and one that would be perfect for a discussion group.

About the Author:

Jack Fuller has published six critically acclaimed novels and one book of non-fiction about journalism. He has been a legal affairs writer, a war correspondent in Vietnam, a Washington correspondent, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer. He recently retired as president of the Tribune Publishing Company and lives in Chicago with his wife, Debra Moskovits. He has two children, Tim and Kate.

I received a complimentary copy of Abbeville by Jack Fuller from Unbridled Books. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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