Froelich’s Ladder by Jamie Yourdon

froelich-smBegin with a baker’s dozen of lively characters, sift in two parts magical realism, a pinch of fantasy, and mix in the historical setting of early days in Oregon Country. And you might end up with an entertaining tall tale, not unlike Jamie Yourdon’s debut novel, “Froelich’s Ladder.”

The book begins with a quarrel between two brothers, German immigrants taking land grants in 1851. The little feisty one, Froelich, conceives of a giant ladder as a courting gift to the beautiful Indian maid, Lotsee. He talks his gigantic brother, Harald, who actually likes the Oregon rainy weather, into doing most of the work. When Lotsee seduces Harald, Froelich manipulatively climbs the ladder till he’s out of sight, refusing to come down. In retaliation, Harald insists on holding up the ladder for as long as his brother remains aloft.

What follows is a multigenerational tale of loyalty and betrayal, love and greed, pettiness and nobility, centering primarily on the complex adventures of Gordy and Binx, Harald’s sons. (Lotsee is quite ingenious.) Characters range from Confederate spies, to a cross-dressing young girl, to a canny Scottish entrepreneur, to hungry clouds. Settings include the Logging Camp, a locked tower, an unused bowling alley…but always circle back to that clearing in the woods where the ladder stands, for decades.

There is a haunting, underlying loneliness to the story. Life is fragile on the frontier. Trusting others is risky.  A beautifully crafted, original tall tale for our Pacific Northwest of today. – Connie Bennett, Library Director

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