The Mallast family's move from Germany to America in 1882 is, in one way, a classic story of immigration involving turbulent times, difficult adjustments, and new paths in life. After an introduction emphasizing that Mallast stems from his family history, Bob Prevost provides a journey through time, opening with the feel of rural central Prussia in 1879 as August Mallast tends the family fires on their tenant farm while musing on his country's progressively dangerous military ideology.
August's life has been changed by battlefield horrors in three wars, already: how can he avoid having his son conscripted into service? It's obvious: the family has to flee their homeland.
Bob Prevost takes the time to fully cover the logical progression of thought, from initial analysis of a country's political, social and military history and its impact on August and his family to their difficult decision to immigrate to a strange new country.
The frugal farming lifestyle the family's cultivated could translate to success in America, and as August follows progressively more bad news and tries to find a route that will allow the family to remain in their homeland, it becomes increasingly evident that this will not work: "Do we stay and endure the possible future treacherous wars with our sons’ lives at risk?”
This decision-making process is particularly well detailed, taking into account not just political changes, but the psyches of young men which are often geared to the glories of conflict and battle: "He knew his sons would initially look forward to a perceived glorious adventure with the army, especially since many of their young friends would be part of the big build-up as well."
August's task lies in using his more mature knowledge of war's horrible effects to move his family to a safe place where the drama lies not in battle, but in new opportunities for growth. As they make their choices and moves, these themes rise to the forefront of a plan that brings the family to a new home and some unforeseen challenges.
As the family experiences newfound prospects and change with their new American farm and business ventures, so does its history evolve from one of Old Country hardships to New World opportunity.
The European setting, motivations for major changes, family connections and support systems, and Mallast's family history (the facts are reviewed in a concluding section to the novel) all make for a lovely historical piece that takes a family history and transforms it into a microcosm of immigrant experience.
Any fiction reader who appreciates historical facts and stories of early European immigrant experience will relish this sweeping saga of a family that ultimately recreates their lives and makes decisions that have lasting, positive ramifications for future generations.