Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Book Review: The Good Times are All Gone Now
The Good Times are All Gone Now: Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town, by Julie Whitesel Weston takes a refreshingly frank look at the author’s hometown, Kellogg, Idaho.
Weston delves realistically into the gritty world of a town’s quest for lead, silver and zinc by Bunker Hill Mining Company, the community’s largest employer. Although the book begins with the author’s return to Kellogg to witness the 1996 demolition of the mining company’s smokestack, much of the book takes place in the fifties and sixties, during Weston’s years as a school girl. But she also reaches back to the nineteenth century of Kellogg’s founding and the townpeople’s involvement in this stark mining environment, as well as five generations of her family in Idaho.
Weston takes an honest look at her family’s dynamics–a supportive mother, an older brother and younger sister, and a well-respected father, much admired as a skilled physician, but who at home is feared for his drunken rages. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Weston thrives among the hard-working townspeople, is at the top of her class at school, and makes life-long friends.
Kellogg, known for its rich mines and notorious for its tough way of life, its brothels and gambling, is nevertheless Julie Whitesel Weston’s hometown and she mourns the demise of a way of life. Although the mines brought wealth to the community, they also brought sludge piles of contaminated waste, causing devastation to forests and rivers.
Toward the end of the book, the author recognizes a new Kellogg emerging, a town with a different focus, turning years of decay into new life, opportunity and jobs. The realization that her hometown has changed forever is mixed with the bitter-sweet memories of the past, but hope for the future.
The Good Times are All Gone Now: Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town is a funny, sad, touching and skillfully-told story of a town and its people, of a young girl influenced by all she saw and experienced. Weston does a remarkable job of putting the reader inside the heart of a town, giving a fresh viewpoint to otherwise casual observers of that unique way of life.
The book is available through the publisher, The University of Oklahoma Press, the author’s website www.julieweston.com/books.htm, and Amazon.com.