National Book Critics Circle, Nonfiction, 1993
On August 5, 1949, a crew of 15 of the U.S. Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Less than one hour later, all but three were dead or fatally burned in a "blowup," an explosive 2,000-degree firestorm 300 feet tall. Norman MacLean spent the last 14 years of his life determined to sift through grief and controversy in search of the truth behind the Mann Gulch tragedy, one of the worst disasters in the history of the Forest Service. Young Men and Fire is the culmination of his investigations. It is a story about honor, death, compassion, and the human spirit.
Would you listen to Young Men and Fire again? Why?
Yes, this is a beautiful book about firefighting, smokejumpers, and the tragedy of the Mann Gulch fire. The recording does a good job of bringing out the highest quality of nonfictional "story" telling done by the author Norman Maclean.
What other book might you compare Young Men and Fire to and why?
A River Runs Through It, is by the same author and about the same time period and of growing up in Montana.
Which character – as performed by John MacLean – was your favorite?
I don't think that the book was looking to portray any of the characters as favorites. The book was looking to tell of what happened when a group of the nations elite firefighters encountered the Mann Gulch fire in 1949, and to show the strength of character of these brave young men.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes, it is a book that should be read first. After reading the book, then listening to the audio version helps to recall the harsh, rugged beauty of the story.
Any additional comments?
Robert Redford did a great job in making A River Runs Through It into a movie. This story and the men that lost their life on Mann Gulch deserve the same.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I found this book by way of the song "Cold Missouri Waters" by James Keelaghan. This is a ballad told in the voice of Dodge, the foreman. It brings tears to my eyes each time. I recommend this as well.
Young Men and Fire is a story of tregedy in the Greek sense. MacLean tells a great story and shows he is a master of words as well. He is a stickler for details and pacing. His son reads clearly and effectively - and the sound quality of the recording is superb. My only gripe is that I felt the last 45 minutes could have been condensed. Otherwise, an excellent read/listen!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
I own and have read this book. This recording is abridged. The performance is fine and the essential story is present, but it is not the entire, unabridged story.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
I read the book, and found it to be beautiful and compelling. It's also a very informative tale. You'll learn how fires are fought, and how men are lost fighting them. Norm Maclean wrote two books, and in my opinion, this one is better than "A River Runs Through It."
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I've never written a book. I've never spent 14 years gather information for a book.
But if I did and people as renowned as Frank Delaney thought it was good, I sure as heck would be picky about who narrated the audio version.
The narrator's voice never gets out of the back of his nose. Terribly irritating.
6 of 10 people found this review helpful
The narrator has a droning voice that can make the dense material and author's frequent bouts of philosophical self-indulgence a bit hard to get through, but overall the book is the result of a great investigation.
If you like stories about piecing together a mystery from disparate clues and want a break from the murders of young women which dominate the true crime genre, or if you're drawn to investigations of disasters and their chain of events, you can do a lot worse than this book. I learned about an entire field of study I'd never thought much about, and I really enjoyed being drawn into this thoughtful exploration of an event which forever changed how the forest service fights fires.
This story is a combination of science and tale concerning not only fire and how it takes life in the woods but also about life- the living and dying of it all. Truly one of the great works of the 20th century.
It is obvious that the Mann Gulch Fire deeply affected Maclean, and stuck with him his whole life. Once you've read this book, it will stick with you too.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
There were several lessons learned from the Mann Gulch fire, this book outlines them. I think that the author did a lot of research to support his assertions about the several smoke jumpers who died in the fire. A quick listen.
There are those books that you come across that are so moving that you end up giving the book as a gift over and over again. This is such a book. I've listened to this book countless times and have read it at least 5 times. There is something so dear about Norman Maclean's son narrating the chronicle. When you hear about the young men dying in the Mann Gulch fire, the true dignity and frailty of human life is evident and clear. Highly recommend.