Synopses & Reviews
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins comes another "literary miracle" (NPR) — a propulsive, richly entertaining novel about two brothers swept up in the turbulent class warfare of the early twentieth century.
An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice, and betrayal set against the panoramic backdrop of an early twentieth-century America that eerily echoes our own time, The Cold Millions offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation grappling with the chasm between rich and poor, between harsh realities and simple dreams.
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.
Dubious of Gig's idealism, Rye finds himself drawn to a fearless nineteen-year-old activist and feminist named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. But a storm is coming, threatening to overwhelm them all, and Rye will be forced to decide where he stands. Is it enough to win the occasional battle, even if you cannot win the war?
Featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers, The Cold Millions is a tour de force from a "writer who has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors" (Boston Globe).
“The Cold Millions is a literary unicorn: a book about socio-economic disparity that’s also a page-turner, a postmodern experiment that reads like a potboiler, and a beautiful, lyric hymn to the power of social unrest in American history. It’s funny and harrowing, sweet and violent, innocent and experienced; it walks a dozen tightropes. Jess Walter is a national treasure.” Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
"Jess Walter is a superb storyteller. His plot rolls on at a steady pace. His ear for dialogue, whatever the character, is acute. He knows when to amp up the prose with a telling metaphor... As polished and hard as a diamond, The Cold Millions reminds us of America's tempestuous past and suggests that all this is anything but past." Boston Globe
"Stunning... The Cold Millions feels timed perfectly to this moment of stark income inequality, where the crevasse between billionaires and workers widens and activism increases... Walter marshals a motley, fascinating cast of characters so finely drawn that they lift from the page... I haven't encountered a more satisfying and moving novel about the struggle for workers' rights in America." San Francisco Chronicle
“A spirited and expansive novel... Filled with a gusto that honors the beauty of believing in societal change and simultaneously recognizes the cruel limits of the possible.” Wall Street Journal
Watch the Powell’s virtual event with Jess Walter and Amor Towles!
About the Author
Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, and Citizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.