In "The Bohemian Flats," Mary Relindes Ellis's rich, imaginative gift carries us from the bourgeois world of fin de siecle Germany to a vibrant immigrant enclave in the heart of the Midwest and to the killing fields of World War I. Shell shock, as it was called, lands Raimund Kaufmann in a London hospital, a victim of the war but also of his own, and his brother's, efforts to get out of Germany and build a new life in America. While his recovery eludes him, his memory returns us to Minneapolis, to the Flats, a milling community on the Mississippi River, where Raimund and his brother Albert have sought respite from the oppressive hand of their older brother, now the master of the family farm and brewery. In Minnesota the brothers confront different forms of prejudice, but they also find a chance to remake their lives according to their own principles and wishes--until the war makes their German roots inescapable.
Following these lives, "The Bohemian Flats" conjures both the sweep of irresistible history and the intimate reality of a man, and a family, caught up in it. From a nineteenth-century German farm to the thriving, wildly diverse immigrant village below Minneapolis on the Mississippi to the European front in World War I, and returning to twentieth-century America--this is a story that takes a reader to the far reaches of human experience and the depths of the human heart.
Mary Relindes Elliss stories have been anthologized in "Uncommon Waters: Women Write About Fishing; Bless Me, Father: Stories of Catholic Childhood; The Years Best Fantasy and Horror"; and "Gifts of the Wild: A Womans Book of Adventure,"
"Ellis is a magician with historical details. From the walks Raimund takes through Minneapolis neighborhoods, to the sort of food he eats and the sort of beer his Bohemian neighbors brew, the authenticity of his life comes fairly bounding off the page." -Star Tribune
"The Bohemian Flats is one of those rare books that a reader can open at random to find intriguing dialogue and insights. By the time you finish... you will feel you know the Kaufmann family and perhaps have a better understanding of what World War I did to Germans who stayed behind and those who forged new lives in America." -Pioneer Press
"The Bohemian Flats is fascinating for what it tells us about the past, about the pain and pleasure of leaving one home for another, and how world events, family secrets, and entrenched prejudice can follow us from country to country-and era to era." -Minnesota Magazine "The Bohemian Flats, bristling with historical detail, is a story about family members immigrating into the United States from Europe and settling in a unique district in Minneapolis." -David Rhodes, author of Driftless and Jewelweed
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