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Out of This Furnace

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  1,066 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
Out of This Furnace is Thomas Bell’s most compelling achievement. Its story of three generations of an immigrant Slovak family -- the Dobrejcaks -- still stands as a fresh and extraordinary accomplishment.

The novel begins in the mid-1880s with the naive blundering career of Djuro Kracha. It tracks his arrival from the old country as he walked from New York to White Haven,
Paperback, 424 pages
Published June 30th 1976 by University of Pittsburgh Press (first published January 1st 1941)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 01, 2013 Marjorie rated it it was ok
WORST BOOK EVER!!!!! The only reason I gave it two stars was because it had its facts straight, other than that; NEVER READ IT!!! I died each time I read this book, and I really don't want to put anyone else through my suffering!
Sep 15, 2011 Beth rated it it was amazing
This book is the story of 3 generations of immigrants from Slovakia, who ended up working in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. It's written in novel form, but it's basically the biography of the author's family.

The conditions in the mills in the late 1800's and early 1900's were hell on earth. These men worked 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, and once every two weeks, worked a 24 hour shift. The unions fimally came in decades later. There were no benefits, and in spite of 84 hour weeks, they made on
Aug 09, 2007 Melanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2003
My Slovak relatives recommended this book because they thought it did an excellent job of capturing the Slovak experience in America (and, more specifically, in Pittsburgh). Even my dad and his cousins could relate to it--their fathers still worked in the mills in the 1950s and sixties (and in some cases, if they lived that long, in the seventies), everyone was in the union, grandparents and unmarried uncles and boarders filled the spare rooms in their homes, etc. It's not the most elegantly wri ...more
Amy Young
Dec 21, 2008 Amy Young rated it liked it
Again I want to give this a 3.5! This follows three generations of Slovak steel workers in the Pittsburgh area from 1880 to the late 1930's. This is the type of book that reminds me of where I've come from (my grandfather was born to coal miners in Ohio in 1899 who later moved to the coal mines of southern Colorado) and HOW BLESSED I AM. I am. Let me say it again: I am blessed. Grandpa I love you and am thankful for the sacrifices you made to raise your son to be a wonderful man and father. Woul ...more
Jun 17, 2009 Christopher rated it really liked it
A historical novel that educates while telling its story. I learned more about immigrant and labor history from this book than I did from any immigrant or labor history textbook. If you're looking for the sort of novel that is high entertainment specifically, you'll probably be disappointed, as it's not that sort of book, but as a narrative that relates the struggles of three generations of a Slovak family in Western PA, it does exactly what it should be doing.
May 16, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it
This is the story of Slovak immigrants settling in Braddock, PA and working in the Edgar Thomson (and others) steel mill. It covers three generations. My husband was a third-generation ET worker. Knowing a bit about Braddock and the mill intensified the story for me. I could also relate to the Slovak, as my grandparents came from that general area. The doctor in the story had a name similar to my family name.
Feb 04, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
This is a really cool book. I have to read it for my US History class, but its amazing how good of a read it is. I'm very interested in the similarities between the characters and my own ancestors. My family came from croatia and hungary, and my great grandfather worked in the steal mills. It gives me a closer look into what their lives might have been like.
Rishona Campbell
May 10, 2011 Rishona Campbell rated it really liked it
This was a great book. It was suggested to me by some professors who knew that I grew up in Clairton, PA....a neighbor of the main locales in the book (Braddock & Homestead), and could appreciate the book's topic. I learned so much about the history of my birthplace in that ancestors didn't arrive to the area until the 1920s. This was how the mills broke the strike going down South and recruiting poor Blacks to come work in the mills (this isn't directly told in the book at all...b ...more
Justin Bennett
Apr 03, 2015 Justin Bennett rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mohamed Hagi
Feb 27, 2011 Mohamed Hagi rated it it was ok
To be honest with you guys, I give this book a thumbs down. I had to read this book for class and I did not like the general set up of the book and I found it to be bland and some what boring. If anyone wants to read this book I strongly recommend you to reconsider. If you are looking to read an action packed, life changing novel about European immigration then "Out of this furnace" is not the book for you. One of the many things I did not like about the story was the dialouge that the book lack ...more
Jan 19, 2015 Joy rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading for all high schools in the Pittsburgh, PA, area, if not in the country. Immigration, hard work, and class struggle are not new concepts. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Rock Angel
I saw an unrelated 2013 movie "Out of the Furnace" that showed the landscape of the modern day Rust Belt. The protagonists lived in Braddock, PA and there was a story arc that touched on the Appalachian "mountain culture" of Ramapo Mountains in NJ. I am glad to finally put a visual on the land described in Met her on the Mountain.

There were shots of the beautiful gothic architecture of the retired West Virginia State Penitentiary.
May 11, 2015 Sue rated it liked it
A semi-autobigraphical book by Bell, this is a complicated book. It is an easy read but is somewhat confusing to follow. It was recommended to me in order to explain the story of the steel mills near Pittsburgh, where we now live. The first 2/3 of the book is about the family that came over from Poland to find jobs in the US and the last 1/3 is about the labor unions and steel mill workers. Interesting book - not really well written but good. I could not do a better job writing it - so I enjoyed ...more
Hannah Comfybookchats
The ending was ok, but for the most part I just didn't understand what was going on. History 202 is which class I read it for.
Terri Baldwin
Sep 03, 2016 Terri Baldwin rated it it was amazing
Perhaps not the most well-written book and occasionally hard to follow, I still gave it five stars for emotional content. My grandfather could have been one of the Kracha men; in fact, there's a gentleman on the cover who bears an uncanny resemblance to my father.

The plight of Rusyn immigrants was not easy for me to comprehend until I read this book. If you are of Eastern European and/or Rusyn ancestry and have any interest in your heritage, I strongly recommend this book as well as "The Linden
Sep 07, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
I had to do a quick skim read to finish the book for Book Club discussion but committed to myself to go back and absorb the fine details in my appreciation of the author Bell. It would be beneficial to anybody researching historical nationalities or Company/Union relationships of today to seriously read this book. A few statements in the Afterword accurately describe this excellent read: “Out of This Furnace is about the acculturation and evolving political consciousness of the immigrant workers ...more
This is a truly an amazing book. I really loved this book. It is about immigrants coming from east European countries during the late 1800's and their struggle to live, work and maintain a family in America.

Many of their account are reproduced in this historical novel by Thomas Bell. He writes in a way that a read starts to really feel an empathy for those early immigrant people. Thomas covers their social, family and economic life in a way the readers would feel really relateable to it. A read
Paul Haspel
Sep 03, 2012 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it
Thomas Bell's Out of This Furnace is a powerful saga that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of three generations of the Dobrejcaks, a Slovak-American family in the Pittsburgh-area steel-making city of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Bell's clean, disciplined, no-nonsense prose style complements well his story of people who cope with entrenched ethnic discrimination while seeking to build their own American dream within the dangerous world of the Braddock steel mills. Because Bell drew upon his own f ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Irene rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical
This was required reading for the history class I just took. It followed three generations, beginning with Kracha, a man who came to America from Slovakia in the early 1900's. I think he was a jerk and I didn't like him at all. His brother, who was already working in America, sent him money so he could join him. On the ship over he became infatuated with another man's wife and on their last night he spent his money on some liquor so he could pretend to be drunker than he was so he would have an ...more
Aug 21, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
I found this book interesting and informative about the lives of this particular family of mill workers in the time period of the book. My family is from the area and I had relatives who worked in these same mills so I felt like I learned something about my own family history. Although, most of the mills mentioned in the book are gone, Homestead Works has been changed into a large planned shopping area with restaurants, businesses, apartments, and a walking trail along the water with signs which ...more
Jun 16, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
A well-written and researched story about the hardships of living in the steel mill towns of Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. The story develops the lives of 3 generations of an immigrant Slovak family from the 1880's through the 1920's. It recounts the struggle of the Slovak immigrants to maintain decent lives while living in the inhuman conditions of working in the steel mills during the late 1800's. It is a story of ethnic heritage and of a cruel and violent period in the history of t ...more
Lisa Wilson
May 09, 2016 Lisa Wilson rated it it was ok
This book provides a very informative look into the steel industry that shaped the city of Pittburgh. It follows the lives of three generations of Slovakian immigrants who worked in the mills. While I found it very informative, I also found the story to be very slow moving. I also found the politics to be a bit confusing, and I almost think the author may have gone with what he had heard growing up rather than with facts (the author was a descendent of steel workers). For instance, during the Gr ...more
Apr 05, 2008 Mariel rated it liked it
Shelves: pittsburgh
Bell's semi-autobiographical work is mostly still read because it works better as history than as literature. Unlike The Bread Givers (which REALLY annoyed me), there is a kind of charm to Bell's novel.

Several generations of an immigrant steel working family comprise the cast list for the book. It begins with the patriarch's journey to America and from New York to Homestead. The descriptions of mill town life are the crowning jewel of the book. Although the female characters lack much depth, th
Aug 27, 2015 Tanna rated it really liked it
An excellent picture of 3 generations of immigrant steel workers, their families and the communities they built.
Amazing touching death bed scene.
Boys and men working in dangerous brutal conditions; supported by women working just as hard. All living under terrible conditions.
Even with brutal circumstances, I still saw strong beautiful men and women.
Good reading, written in 1941.
Apr 12, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
I found this an amazingly interesting book. Probably even more so as it is set in Pittsburgh and involves Slovak immigrants who worked in the steel mills. Traces several generations with the last being involved in the unionization of steel workers. This is fiction based on accurate history. Was even more interesting as we just visited the Frick Estate in Pittsburgh last winter.
Ben Daghir
Jun 06, 2015 Ben Daghir rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-books
Any history lover will love this book. America is a country in which every knows merged from people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. The story doesn't end there; what happened when they came? What was life like? How did the experience the land of the free?

Matthew Young
Nov 28, 2008 Matthew Young rated it really liked it
A great ground level view of three generations of steel-plant workers and the social changes that lead to the eventual fight for labor rights, this was my first real introduction in high school to the conditions in the turn-of-the-century world that built Pittsburgh from a mining town to a major 19 & 20th century steel town. If there was one thing I remember disliking, it was that the greater condition of the steelworkers unionizing movement and the world's reaction to their... the whole pol ...more
Debby Hollingshead
Jul 23, 2014 Debby Hollingshead rated it really liked it
The story is set in Duquesne and Homestead,PA, spanning the years from 1895 to the 1930's. Since I live right across the river from Homestead,I really enjoyed the references to history of locations with which I am very familiar.
Jon Sweet
Jun 13, 2014 Jon Sweet rated it it was amazing
This is a very well written novel about the U.S. Steel company from the late 19th century to the Great Depression. It is very historically accurate and would be a great book for any history buff interested in American history.
Nov 25, 2011 Curtis rated it really liked it

Now that I have finished Out of this Furnace, I feel like I should work harder and love smarter. This multigenerational novel explores the plight of Slovak Immigrants from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. It’s an eye opening look at their history, dreams and desires. Bell's novel (which is based on real-life events) exposes the early origins of America's cheap labor addiction.

This was my first foray into historical fiction, and I found these characters to be simple, yet inspirational. I was m
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