cover image Gilded Mountain

Gilded Mountain

Kate Manning. Scribner, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-982160-94-4

Manning (My Notorious Life) sets this stellar coming-of-age novel in early 20th-century Moonstone, Colo., where a young woman gets a firsthand look at the machinations behind an exploitive mining company and its workers’ efforts to unionize. Sixteen-year-old Sylvie Pelletier’s quarryman father, Jacques, works in the dangerous high-altitude marble mines owned by industrialist Jerome Padgett. Jacques and union representative George Lonahan want to organize the miners, efforts the company fights with various forms of intimidation that escalate to hiring violent Pinkerton thugs, while Padgett’s wife, Inge, hopes to pacify the workers with company-owned libraries and schools. Sylvie leaves her job at the local newspaper and moves into the Padgetts’ luxurious manor for a higher-paying role as Inge’s live-in secretary in summer 1907. There she meets the Gradys, a Black couple whose complex ties to the Padgett family are later revealed, and falls in love with Padgett’s son, Jace, from a previous marriage. The hard-drinking and idealistic Jace seems to return Sylvie’s feelings but departs for college at the end of summer without saying goodbye. Sylvie returns to the newspaper, whose fearless female owner’s reporting on injustices at the mine inspires Sylvie to become a reporter. Meanwhile, winter salary stoppages and a death at the mine rekindle the drive toward unionization as Sylvie grows attracted to Lonahan. Sylvie’s vivid first-person narration captures her own maturing perceptions and the complex personalities of the major characters as well as supporting players including activist Mary “Mother” Jones. Manning shines at giving the era’s class, racial, and economic tensions a human face. This is one to savor. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Nov.)