Wednesday, December 28, 2016
The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels
Northern Michigan and especially the Upper Peninsula of Michigan share much with Northern Wisconsin. Travelers today head to these locations for recreation, especially the quiet variety -- kayaking, a few hours fishing, or maybe a hike through dense, lush forests. Eagles fly overhead and loons dot the lakes. If you happen to scare up a deer or an elk, it is easy to do a bit of time traveling of the mind, wondering what it was like when the lumber camps abounded across these lands. Knowing that her ancestors ran one of those Michigan lumber camps, Carrie Fancett Pagels has researched what those times were like and has discovered a tidbit that few of us know -- some of the camps were actually family camps. That means the workers were not just single men. Wives accompanied their spouses and worked as laundrywomen, cooks, etc. If there were enough children within a camp, schools might be started. That knowledge led Pagel to consider what a young woman might experience if she had been raised in the camps, moving from one virgin stand of pines to another.
Pagel's Christmas novella THE FRUITCAKE CHALLENGE gives us a peak into those Michigan woods and a busy lumbercamp. Being a lover of the northwoods, I was eager to see what Pagel envisioned as a true lumberjack experience. New lumberjack Tom Jeffries has come north to make some good money fast; he's counting on a sum large enough to rescue his mom from her precarious finances, something he could never have accomplished on his pitiful teaching salary. But within days of arriving at the camp, Tom finds his attentions are drawn to the young, attractive camp cook Jo Christy. In a boastful moment, Tom challenges that he will marry whoever can make a fruitcake as good as his mother's. That Jo is the logging camp's daughter (boss's daughter) and that other loggers join in the challenge turns the whole camp into a flurry of flour, sugar, and dried fruit.
A sweet story, sincere characters, and a glimpse into the workings of a camp. Carrie Fancett Pagel has delivered on all accounts. THE FRUITCAKE CHALLENGE is part of THE LUMBERJACK series. I received a copy of this title for review purposes.