Before the First Snow
If you have trouble understanding the issues surrounding natural gas fracking or reasons for the Occupy movement, a good start might be Walter Brasch’s critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow.
Skillfully mixing humor with tragedy, Brasch tells the story of Apryl Greene, a folksinger and photographer for labor unions and social causes. She’s a ’60s “flower child” who is trying to build a school for peace and the arts on 40 acres of land she owns along the Susquehanna River in rural north central Pennsylvania.
On the eve of the Persian Gulf War, with Iraq having invaded Kuwait and now holding 10 percent of the oil in the world, government and corporate business are playing to the fears of Americans by simultaneously pushing for war and for “clean” nuclear energy with well-paying jobs in a depressed economy. What they haven’t said is that real estate deception, government bungling, and manufacturing processes defects threaten the people’s health, safety, and environment.
Into Apryl’s life comes David Ascher, cynical, liberal, and burdened with the responsibilities of being executive editor of a major magazine. On tour to promote his book about revolutionary journalists, he’s looking for another story; she’s after something more important. Together, they are driven to find out who are trying to seize her land and stop construction of her school; more important, why.
Literary critic Ron Primeau calls Before the First Snow “a brilliant book that touches the nerve of where political decisions intersect with the pulse of what it is to be human. The characters and events are vivid and the momentum is never lost. The layers of the plot and characterization work because the writing style is so fresh and clear.”
Primeau praises Brasch’s deft handling of plot development. The odd-numbered chapters focus upon May 1990 to Jan. 15, 1991, the eve of the invasion; the even-numbered chapters, each tying into the next one, are historical vignettes that begin in 1964 and also end with the beginning of Desert Storm. Apryl appears in all of the chapters, sometimes as a major character, sometimes for only a scene. But through her life, says Brasch, “We can feel the Movement as more than a collection of facts.”
Among the chapters are penetrating looks at the unionization of farm workers, the Civil Rights movement, the 1967 “Summer of Love,” the Chicago riots of 1968, the developing interest in environmental protection, the rise of the “Me First” generation, and an interesting chapter that merges the lives of those who were at Woodstock with the lives of soldiers at Kent State.
Michael Blake, the Oscar®-winning writer of “Dances With Wolves,” says Brasch is “an exceptional writer.” Dan Rather calls this fast-paced mystery, “First-rate fiction that explores and contemplates modern American history, culture, politics and journalism.”
Rather points out, “What Brasch and his characters have to say about the intermingling of corporate and government power alone makes this book worth reading.” Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States, says Before the First Snow is, “A powerful and brilliantly-written look at humanity and the reverence of life.” The industry magazine, Independent Publisher, says Brasch “meticulously builds a scenario of greed, corruption, and intrigue, set against the backdrop of social protest. In so doing, he weaves a compelling story of history and contemporary American values.”
Brasch, an activist-journalist since the mid-1960s, is an award-winning syndicated columnist and multimedia writer-producer. He also does a weekly commentary for several radio stations. Previously, he was a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor.
This is Brasch’s 17th book. Most of his books blend history and contemporary social issues to make powerful insights into the collective consciousness of the American people.
Before the First Snow is available from amazon.com, most bookstores, or through his publisher, Greeley & Stone.