Early Read: First Two Chapters of Gerald Lund's New Book

by | Oct. 28, 2014



A few weeks ago, renowned LDS author Gerald Lund announced his new historical fiction page-turner, Fire and Steel, would release one month from today, on Black Friday, in Deseret Book stores. 

But we simply couldn't wait that long. 

So in anticipation of the release, LDS Living brings you an exclusive (and 100% free!) inside look at the first two chapters of A Generation Rising, the premier book in the new series!

To download the first two chapters, subscribe to our email newsletter by entering your email address below (or keep reading):

A Generation Rising, the first book in Lund's new series, chronicles the lives of two families who will face some of the most turbulent times in history including World War I, The Great Depression, and World War 2.

You can preorder Gerald Lund's new book here or begin reading below.




February 20, 1896—Graswang Village, Bavaria, Germany

It was snowing steadily on the day Hans Otto Eckhardt was born.

When it all started at 3:30 that morning, only a few flakes were floating down from the starless sky. That was when Inga Eckhardt shook her husband awake from a deep sleep. “Hans, go!” she whispered through clenched teeth. “Go to the village and fetch Frau Hemmert.”

He rose up on one elbow. “What about the milking? Can you wait?”

“Not while you milk ten cows, dummkopf!”

“But . . .” Cows didn’t wait either. “I can be done in half an hour.”

“Go!” she cried. Grumbling to himself, her husband got up and began to dress.

Approximately twenty hours later, with six inches of snow outside, Inga gave one last piercing scream as she felt the contraction peaking again. “Push!” Frau Hemmert cried. “Push! It’s coming!”

There was no need to yell at her. Nothing could have stopped her now. Biting her lip, gripping the bed frame so hard she felt she would leave fingerprints in the wood, Inga bore down one last time. And suddenly there was a euphoric feeling of release, of deliverance. She fell back, gasping as a lusty wail split the air. It was 11:47 p.m. on the 20th day of February.

“It’s a boy!” the midwife exclaimed. She held up the baby for his mother to see, then turned and shouted over her shoulder. “Herr Eckhardt. It’s a boy! You have a son.”

There was a cry of exultation from the main room. “Give us five minutes,” Frau Hemmert called, “then you can come in.”

“My, my,” she said to Inga as she turned back and went to work. “No wonder it took so long. Over nine pounds I would guess. Maybe ten. He is as strong as a horse! Oh, you poor woman.” The baby was howling, arms and hands and legs and feet thrashing wildly. “And such mighty lungs,” she laughed. “He is quite outraged at what just happened to him.”

Inga barely heard her. Never had she felt so utterly exhausted, so utterly spent. She murmured something, not sure whether it was an appropriate response, but not caring, and then closed her eyes and slipped into a deep sleep.

• • •

Inga Jolanda Bauer had been born the oldest child of a Schweinehirt—a swine keeper. The family lived on a small farm in Unterammergau—or Lower Ammergau—in Southern Bavaria, just a few miles north of the Austrian border. Unlike most of their neighbors in the valley, the Bauers lived in wretched and perpetual poverty. Josef Bauer was one of those men whom life seemed to take particular delight in holding back. As one of his neighbors noted, if you gave Josef a bar of gold, he would manage to turn it into a brick of tin before the week was over. The fact that he was a heavy drinker, like so many men who failed miserably at life, didn’t help.

Unterammergau was about two miles downstream from Ober—or upper—Ammergau, and it benefitted considerably from Oberammergau’s “rich cousin” status. Set at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, the two villages and the stunning scenery of the valley around them drew a lot of summer tourists, particularly from Munich, just thirty miles to the north. But that only partially accounted for the valley’s booming tourist industry.

In 1633, the Black Death—bubonic plague—was ravaging Europe. The villages watched in dread as the disease marched relentlessly southward. In desperation, and at the urging of their parish priest, the villagers made a sacred vow. If the Lord would spare them from the disease, they would put on a dramatization of Christ’s Passion—the common name for the final week of the Savior’s life—and would do so every year thereafter.

In a matter of weeks, death rates dropped dramatically and new cases almost disappeared. In July, only one adult was lost. Filled with a profound gratitude, the villagers staged the first play the following summer in a hastily constructed outdoor theater just outside the village.

Now, 232 years later, they were still doing it every ten years and bringing in tens of thousands of paying visitors. The fame of their little community—its fabled beauty, its charming houses, and a collection of wood-carvers the likes of which few other villages could boast—spread far and wide. The whole area had been blessed with a steady, reliable economy thanks to that simple vow of gratitude.

Unfortunately, not much of that prosperity touched the Bauers. By the time Inga was six and ready to attend primary school, there were three other little Bauers to feed. So even though the schools were state-supported, Inga attended just long enough to learn to read and write and do some basic arithmetic. By the time she was twelve, there were seven children to feed. Her father’s drinking problem had only deepened, and the Bauers were desperate.

One day when she was thirteen, Inga’s father returned from Oberammergau, called his wife and Inga into the kitchen, and announced that starting the following day, Inga would become an indentured servant to one of the most prosperous men in the village—Herr Hermann Kleindienst. The Kleindiensts owned not only Oberammergau’s largest wood-carving shop but the restaurant next door as well. In return for Herr Kleindienst’s promise to buy every pig that Josef could bring to him, Inga moved into the family’s household to help with their three children and do menial housework.

And there she had stayed until she was seventeen. For all her lack of education, Inga had a keen and quick mind. Impressed with her abilities, Herr Kleindienst started her waiting tables in the restaurant when she was fourteen. From there he taught her how to clerk in the store. She learned quickly, and people liked her ready smile and pleasant manner. By the time she was sixteen, she was working full time in the store and he was paying her a small wage in addition to her bed and board.

Inga accepted early on that she would not be what people called a handsome woman. She found her features to be plain, and her shy manners, especially around boys, did not do much to overcome that handicap. Ten years of slopping pigs had left her short frame muscular and stout. But when Herr Kleindienst started Inga working in his shop, Frau Kleindienst had taken her aside and coached her on how to present herself more favorably. She grew her hair out, reminded herself to smile until it became a habit, and chose dresses that complemented her figure.

And that changed everything.

Two miles west of Oberammergau and about four or five from Unterammergau, Hans Eckhardt lived with his family in the small village of Graswang. His father, Karl Eckhardt, was a Milchbauer, a dairy farmer. The village was not much larger than Inga’s village, but like Unterammergau, it had prospered because of its near proximity to Oberammergau. Nestled between pine-covered hills, Graswang was situated on land that was flat and well-drained and grew sweet meadow grass in abundance.

The Eckhardt family of six consisted of Hans’s parents, Hans, two sisters, and a younger brother. Though they considered themselves poor, compared to the Bauers they were very prosperous. They owned about twelve acres of land, which had been in the family for several generations. Their home was of stone and had a two-story barn attached to it. They owned twelve cows, several goats, an assortment of chickens, geese, and ducks, and a horse that pulled their milk cart.

Because of the sweetness of the grass, milk from Graswang was always in demand. And their cheese—from both the goats and the cows—was famous as far east as Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The Eckhardts were also suppliers to Herr Kleindienst’s restaurant and store. It was almost predetermined that sooner or later, Hans Eckhardt and Inga Bauer would meet.

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