Monday, September 29, 2014

Forest Fiction Fan Club: The Young Forester by Zane Grey

Hi, Forest Fiction Fans!  If you joined this month's book club, here is where you can discuss your impressions of Zane Grey's The Young Forester.  

I chose this book because I love Zane Grey's work.  It all started when I saw the movie Man of the Forest (which I highly recommend if you love western romances!) which was based off one of his books, and decided to read more of his work.  The Young Forester, like many of his novels, is a western, and focuses on the emerging forestry industry in America.  

The story opens with the main character Ken Ward, a city slicker who has dreams of becoming a forester, and is trying to convince his father to let him spend a summer in the Arizona forest and go to forestry academy the following year.  Ken is young and "green", idealizing the forest as a poet would, as seen in this quote:

"I dreamed of forest lands with snow-capped peaks rising in the background; I dreamed of elk standing on the open ridges, of white-tailed deer trooping out of the hollows, of antelope browsing on the sage at the edge of the forests. Here was the broad track of a grizzly in the snow; there on a sunny crag lay a tawny mountain-lion asleep. The bronzed cowboy came in for his share, and the lone bandit played his part in a way to make me shiver. The great pines, the shady, brown trails, the sunlit glades, were as real to me as if I had been among them. Most vivid of all was the lonely forest at night and the campfire. I heard the sputter of the red embers and smelled the wood smoke; I peered into the dark shadows watching and listening for I knew not what..."

He embarks on the trip out west and soon learns that book smarts aren't everything on the wild frontier.  From getting lost in the woods and navigating out, to taming a baby bear cub, Ken goes on many adventures that help him learn to overcome the hardships of the wild west woods.  When he learns of an illegal logging operation, he sends a letter to the forestry department back east.  Eventually he saves the whole forest territory he visits.  

The book contains some very funny parts, such as this sentence from one of the older rangers:
"I knew a lot of what you might call forestry, but the scientific ideas—they stump me."

The Young Forester is a coming-of-age tale with tons of action and adventure.  The theme of a young boy from the city coming to the wild woods is a common one, similar to the movie Park Avenue Logger.  I'm surprised it held my interest all the way through, as I am guilty of being bored when a book doesn't have a romantic subplot.  This novel kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the last words spoken by Ken's mentor "You'll be back in the forests."

Forest Fiction Fans, what did you enjoy about The Young Forester?

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