This book is a riviting story of, well, nitrogen. It's also a story of famine and war, since nitrogen's main industrial uses are fertilizer and gunpowder. I'll never read history the same, knowing that Europe, in the 1700's, and China, in the 1960's were both in famine, both relieved by fertilizer. It's amazing to plot the path from ship-to-ship barrages in the Napoleonic wars back to guano deposits in then-Bolivia, and before that, to compost trenches required on every British farm.
Poor Haber is as sad a bit of humanity as you can imagine. His effort to end hunger drove German into two wars, his effort to end all wars created poison gas, and his efforts at insecticide ended up gassing Jews. The only rough part of the book was the sweeping, brief summary of nitrogen in today's world.
WLT is Keillor's best work. It's got great story structure, fantastic characters and character development, hilarious language, and quirky atmosphere.
This great story recounts Bob Dollar's trying to set up hog farms in the Panhandle, a job he loathes for a goal he hates, against people he respects. The story is a little like 'Shipping News', a lost man who saves himself, helped by the community and the land.
The narration of this story was great, with perfect voices for each character.
This is two stories, a challenged man in his 20's, and the same man challenged at 90 (or 93, what year is this?), each leading with humor and fantastic suspence to an inevitable disaster, or, well, jeeze, just listen to the story! You'll respect elephants so much more afterwards.
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