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A Land Remembered

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A Land Remembered has been ranked #1 Best Florida Book eight times in annual polls conducted by Florida Monthly Magazine.

In this best-selling novel, Patrick Smith tells the story of three generations of the MacIveys, a Florida family who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from a dirt-poor Cracker life to the wealth and standing of real estate tycoons. The story opens in 1858, when Tobias MacIvey arrives in the Florida wilderness to start a new life with his wife and infant son, and ends two generations later in 1968 with Solomon MacIvey, who realizes that the land has been exploited far beyond human need. The sweeping story that emerges is a rich, rugged Florida history featuring a memorable cast of crusty, indomitable Crackers battling wild animals, rustlers, Confederate deserters, mosquitoes, starvation, hurricanes, and freezes to carve a kingdom out of the swamp. But their most formidable adversary turns out to be greed, including finally their own. Love and tenderness are here too: the hopes and passions of each new generation, friendships with the persecuted blacks and Indians, and respect for the land and its wildlife.

A Land Remembered was winner of the Florida Historical Society's Tebeau Prize as the Most Outstanding Florida Historical Novel. Now in its 14th hardcover printing, it has been in print since 1984 and is also available in trade paperback.

403 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Patrick D. Smith

33 books166 followers
Patrick Smith is a 1999 inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, the highest and most prestigious cultural honor that can be bestowed upon an individual by the State of Florida.
In May 2002 Smith was the recipient of the Florida Historical Society’s Fay Schweim Award as the “Greatest Living Floridian.” The one-time-only award was established to honor the one individual who has contributed the most to Florida in recent history. Smith was cited for the impact his novels have made on Floridians, both natives and newcomers to the state, and for the worldwide acclaim he has received.

Smith has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1973 for Forever Island, which was a 1974 selection of the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Club and has been published in 46 countries; in 1978 for Angel City, which was produced as a “Movie of the Week” for the CBS television network and has aired worldwide; and in 1984 for A Land Remembered, which was an Editors’ Choice selection of the New York Times Book Review. In the 2001 The Best of Florida statewide poll taken by Florida Monthly magazine, A Land Remembered was ranked #1 Best Florida Book. The novel also ranked #1 in all the polls since then. Smith’s lifetime work was nominated for the 1985 Nobel Prize for Literature, and since then he has received five additional nominations.

In 2008 he was honored with a Literary Heritage Award at the 1st Annual Heritage Book Festival in St Augustine. FLorida's Secretary of State Kurt Browning presented the award.

In 1995 Patrick Smith was elected by The Southern Academy of Letters, Arts and Science for its highest literary award, The Order of the South. Previous recipients include Eudora Welty, James Dickey, and Reynolds Price. In 1996 he was named a Florida Ambassador of the Arts, an honor given each year by the state of Florida to someone who has made significant contributions to Florida's cultural growth. In 1999 Smith was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, which is the highest and most prestigious cultural honor the state bestows upon an individual artist. Prior inductees include writers Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ernest Hemingway.

In October 1990 he received the University of Mississippi’s Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the University’s Alumni Hall of Fame. In 1997, the Florida Historical Society created a new annual award, the Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award, in his honor.

Thousands of people of all ages have enjoyed his books and his talks. With his new DVD, A Sense of Place, you can spend an intimate hour with this soft-spoken author and gain an insight into the creative processes that resulted in his beloved books.

Patrick lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his wife Iris and his beloved cats.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,349 reviews
Profile Image for Brantlee.
6 reviews1 follower
December 28, 2011
Great concept, poorly executed. I stuck with it for the natural history, and don't regret the read, but I would recommend this book to a creative writing class as a shining example of poor character development and unnatural dialog. The book follows the trials of three generations of a family, as they wrestle the elements and slowly emerge from a hand-to-mouth existence to become wealthy but still simple rancher/farmers. In three generations, there was not a single conflict among any of the characters that took more than one paragraph to create and resolve, and if you got to see a character have an emotional epiphany or express a personal feeling, you knew immediately that the character (or the object of his/her emotion) was about to get killed. There wasn't a single chapter that didn't include some major stress or catastrophe, but the characters barely reacted to any of it, beyond a "gosh, we'll get through this somehow." The story line was plenty exciting, but with such flat, puppet-ish characters, it was difficult to develop any sympathy for the family as they faced repeated challenges and losses.
Profile Image for Lisa.
647 reviews241 followers
April 7, 2019
A memorable and heartbreaking book full of perseverance and fortitude.

Tobias MacIvey moved from the overworked land of Georgia to the Florida wilderness in 1858. He was intent on building a house and carving out a better life with his wife Emma and their son Zechariah. A Land Remembered is the story of three generations of the MacIvey family in Florida, exhibiting the perseverance of pioneers as they battle a harsh and unforgiving environment. The MacIvey’s fight with bears, mosquitoes, confederate deserters, starvation, hurricanes and freezes. They manage to amass great wealth as a result of their hard work and determination to survive.

“All I’m trying to tell you is to be strong. Don’t ever let nothing get you down. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to love, or to grieve when the thing you love is gone. Just don’t let it throw you, no matter how much it hurts.“

A LAND REMEMBERED skillfully transports us with oxen and cart to a vision of South Florida in the mid-nineteenth century. To a time where horses and cattle ran wild and the land was untamed. The stories of Tobias, Zechariah and Solomon MacIvey were engrossing, unforgettable and at times heart-breaking. The many characters forming the MacIvey clan were courageous and memorable, and you couldn’t help but appreciate the unique friendships formed. My favorite part was the idealist manner in which the family would brush themselves off after each disaster and move on and start again.

Patrick Smith’s writing was descriptive and poignant, telling a powerful story of this family’s struggle with nature and with the development of the land. We watch as Florida is transform from swamps, forests and palmetto palms to condominiums, souvenir shops and fast food restaurants. It’s a bittersweet story. This is a must read for anyone who lives in Florida. As a native Floridian I savored every word and really didn’t want it to end.

In the annual statewide The Best of Florida poll taken by Florida Monthly Magazine, A Land Remembered has been ranked #1 Best Florida Book ten times. Patrick D. Smith is a 1999 inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. A native of Mendenhall, Mississippi, he holds a B.A. degree and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Mississippi. He moved to Florida in 1966 and passed away in 2014.

“Perhaps animals are smarter than men, he thought, taking only what they need to live today leaving something for tomorrow.”

Publisher Recorded Books
Published Audible - November. 29, 2011
Narrated. George Guidall
Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

Profile Image for Erin Heston.
16 reviews3 followers
July 20, 2013
I really didn't want to read this book. A heart-rending account of a family's struggle to settle north and central Florida? Sigh. And I'm one of the few native Floridians (third generation, I should say)! But I finally cnsented and am so glad I did. The characters and their stories are engaging from the start. With vivid imagery and great respect for all our state once was, The author spins a historical tale of generations of settlers and entrepreneurs. I was surpised how quickly I finished it. Should be required reading for every fool developer looking to bulldoze the last orange grove for another soulless housing development.
Profile Image for Rhonda.
331 reviews52 followers
February 22, 2014
When I used to drive down the east coast to go to school in Miami, I would often arrive at the border as it was getting dark. From the first, I was almost in awe of what the land looked like against the light of civilization, a kind of primitive place where one might expect certain dinosaurs to live. I was more surprised when I discovered that the lower third of the state was entirely composed of a swamp. I was less surprised when over the years I heard of various plans to drain parts of the swamp in the name of progress.

One might read John D McDonald's books to understand the blight of modernity on the state, for the most part the more southern parts in and around Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and the Keys. One can see the pictures of the great condominiums which blot the landscape now in Fort Myers and Naples. On any given day from January through April, sometimes earlier or later, one may make the turn onto Gulf Blvd, Collins Avenue and move very very slowly, all the while seeing nothing of the beach or water, but plenty of hotels and high rises and, of course, people. One is no less guilty by coming one hundred years ago or twenty: Each of us is part of the problem, ants crawling on top of one another without the sense to work towards anything beyond individual greed and self-aggrandizement. We are the Kardashians we either love to love or hate, pathetic and unworthy of our status as caretakers.

Florida is so profoundly different because of a great deal of unpredictability of its terrain. This is difficult to explain without traveling for any period of time on foot. While this book, admittedly, leaves out a great portion of Florida (including the northwestern) and only touches on some of the others, it has its limitations. It is about a family which gets into the cattle business around Kissimmee by capturing wild cattle, fattening them and then driving them to Punta Rassa (originally Punta Rasca) on the southern west coast of FL near Fort Myers. However the book gets it absolutely right in suggesting that there was no more important place for the growth of Florida in the 19th century than this now forgotten little town. You can't understand any of this by zipping along on I-75 or I-4 or I-95 of the Florida Turnpike or even some of the old roads like 301, 27 or 41, although the latter two still give you a better idea if you are a passenger and watch the terrain carefully.

In some sense, Florida is the state where you can't get to anywhere else: it's this little spit of land that goes south from which you have to extricate yourself again pretty much along the same route. Ask anyone from Ontario or Cleveland or East Moline who comes down to get away from the ice and snow. The book begins by asking the inevitable question: why Florida? The answer was, for many settlers, that there wasn't anyplace else to go.

The family which the novel follows has failed at farming red clay in Georgia. For years they don't have it much better in Florida. Then they discover the cattle that have bred in the wild (left by the Spanish so long ago that cattle easily outnumber the settlers for a long period of time.) Indeed, the story of this family is the consummate oversimplification: they struggle but give everyone a chance, including native Americans and a black ex-slave. While it makes for a great and touching story, one tends to doubt the integrity of it.

Could it have happened? Of course! Was it likely to have happened? Highly doubtful. 19th century southerners weren't exactly disposed to be fair to black people. Historically, they treated the native Americans worse. However as a device, even though the process may have been different, it works out rather well because it tells a story. Accurate history it is clearly not.

Some have criticized the character development in the book, but I don't agree: the people in the story seem to be sufficient for their situation, more or less realistic in their techniques of survival and living. I don't have the slightest difficulty in believing the characters.

In the modern world one tends to forget that options were few and far between. Assuredly opportunities for enjoyment and affection were equally rare and yet people persevered. As I look back on my ancestry, even in the first part of the twentieth century, life was amazingly difficult. Some of my relatives were still living with large families on farms. Their written stories often make me shudder not only in their austerity but in their ability to endure. Perhaps we have the opportunities to make various decisions about our lives today. We simply forget that decisions were a luxury that many could not easily afford.

The great story here is about the state of Florida. the history of mankind is pretty much the same wherever one goes: Florida had more different kinds of people who often succeeded in killing one another, perhaps more than most other states. In that way it's intensely interesting. On another level, you can't help seeing the great natural beauty of the land through the author's eyes. That, to me, remains the protagonist of the book and for that I give it four stars.

It's one of those books where it's probably necessary to have been....outside of some air-conditioned condo on the beach, understanding why at one time it took 10 days to cross the lower part of the state to Miami. All we have done is put up some concrete over things and try to make the natural things go away. if this book brings one more person to that consciousness, then it has more than served its purpose.

Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,041 followers
October 23, 2014
I'm giving this book 4 stars, but I'm being a bit generous. It was almost worthy of 5 stars in places, but it was uneven. Especially the end was rushed, unfortunately. I'm really glad I read it though. If you liked John Jakes's Bicentenial series, this is similar, but follows 3 generations of a family across one century in Florida from the Civil War to the 1960's.

It's an excellent look at Florida in the latter half of the 19th century & at some of the pioneers who settled there, what they lived on, endured and how one family made its fortune. Some of the privations they endured were just amazing. Their courage & fortitude was too.

The uneveness:
- While much of it was accurate, there were a few times horses did a bit too much racing around to fit into the timeline of the story. A fairly minor detail, but I found it grating amidst so much authenticity.
- Dialogue went from excellent to excerable. Usually, it was pretty good, but when it got bad, it was really bad.
- The end felt very rushed. It really needed more expansion, but it felt like the author had to shoehorn the book into a specific size & he'd spent too many pages on the first two generations, so the last one was a quick summary.

Still, I really liked the book & would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction without a lot of romance or violence. Just normal folks doing the best they can with not all that much to work with. It was very readable.
Profile Image for Deborah.
759 reviews51 followers
June 28, 2020
Old Florida - a land teeming with wildlife, birds, flora, and fauna that has now disappeared or diminished. A place where wild cattle and hogs, alligators, and snakes roamed and egrets, herons, ibises, whooping cranes, coots, and cormorants swooped over hammocks, cypresses, sawgrass, hardwood trees, cabbage palms, wild orchids, mashes, and the sea of grass. Three generations of the MacIveys built an empire. In 1863, Tobias MacIvey barely made a living farming his dirt poor homestead to support his wife, Emma, and six-year-old son, Zechariah, before becoming a successful cattleman. Zech grew the family business and found love with two different women, Glenda, his wife, and Tawanda, a Seminole. Driving cattle across the state could be harsh and dangerous with deadly swamps, insects, landowners, and cattle rustlers. Solomon increased the assets through real estate, cash, and businesses. A realistic and worthy read of a historical fictional saga of a Florida pioneering family.
Profile Image for Bill.
120 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2014
Not one of the world's great novels. But A Land Remembered deserves all those five stars for its warm, compelling, almost operatic story of generations who shaped Florida.

It begins before the Civil War, when Tobias and Emma MacIvey journey into Florida wilderness to begin a better life than they were able to carve out in Georgia. Young, scrappy, and barely literate, they become farmers, cattle-gatherers (the cattle were descendants of those brought over by the Spaniards centuries before), cattle ranchers, orange farmers: all the things that came before Florida became what we know today. The MacIveys live in Florida before roads, before rail, before the Seminole were driven to the very south of the state. Tobias and Emma have Zechediah (Zech), who eventually marries Glenda and sires Solomon (Sol). The MacIveys build - and lose, and rebuild - fortunes, and they participate in shaping Florida, sometimes unwillingly.

Sketching the course of events, though, doesn't begin to suggest the book's scope. A Land Remembered is basic, elemental, primitive in its power and fury, with the land and all the elements acting as potent characters confronting the MacIveys and all they want to accomplish. What they build comes not from their great plan - they have none - but from their character and their drive, always striving, always fighting, always doing the right moral thing. They are noble in how they treat others, but their interaction with those outside the family is never social, always transactional: what they must do to reach some next goal. Within the family, they show love and suffer painful tragedy. And you, reader, will feel these, especially the tragedy.

Along the way, the reader learns much about how Florida became today's third-most-populous state, a mix of cracker wariness and naked ambition leavened with a pinch of concern about the land and the water. Anyone who wants to know this state must read A Land Remembered, probably more than once.
Profile Image for Melissa.
72 reviews2 followers
October 22, 2014
Eeeeehhhhhh a multigenerational soap opera wrapped in the guise of historical fiction from the ever riveting perspective of white dudes.
Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.
Author 20 books2,157 followers
January 28, 2019
I have determined this year to get through a few books that have been on my TBR list for far too long. This book is one of them. Having grown up in Central Florida I often enjoy returning there in books. This book took place in many places I could picture and my own hometown of Deland has an annual Cracker Day. Turns out Crackers are so-called because they were cattle handlers who cracked their whips. I somehow missed that but it makes sense when I think about the sandy horse country outside of Deland. Deland even gets a tiny nod in the book when Glenda tells Zech, "There's a college in Deland now."

You could almost say my own Florida adventures began just as the book ended. One Saturday when I was quite young my dad drove our family out to Kissimmee, where much of this book takes place, and showed us a little trailer in a pine grove. "Someday there will be a Disney Land here." And before I graduated from high school there was.

What I liked most about this book was the kindness of the main characters. Toby and Zech seemed to be infused with goodness towards all, a kind of goodness you don't often read about. I found that incredibly uplifting.

Hat-tip to Cindy Marsch for reminding me to read this. I am so glad that I did.
Profile Image for Janice Dyck.
Author 5 books2 followers
June 27, 2011
I don't give many books a 5-star rating, only those that I think are unique in their genre and really add something to my ability to understand, to feel or to think. A Land Remembered is a simple story really. It's the kind of book to keep on the night stand and pick up and put down one chapter at a time, for each chapter is a separate story, really, summing up one phase in the development of the land we now know as Florida. From pre-civil war times to modern-day South Beach, it's all there--a story of the land, the people, the struggle, the triumphs. From bears to Brownings, from snow to Seminoles, from cattle rustlers to real estate moguls--A Land Remembered is a must read for anyone who now calls The Sunshine State home. Don't expect a literary masterpiece. Do expect to be charmed, informed and humbled.
23 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2011
Winding back the clock to a past era, Patrick D. Smith writes his novel “A Land Remembered.” Before the Civil War’s outbreak, the MacIvey family flees to Florida in hopes to find a better life. In his historically accurate depiction, Smith illustrates the Florida that once was. Before condo’s, before Disney world, before I-95, and air conditioning; Florida rested as a barren extension to the North American continent. Smith captures Florida’s roots by taking his readers on a journey with fictional family from long ago. Living off the Florida scrub, the MacIvey family eventually resorts to cattle drives as a lucrative way to make a living. Battling Florida’s severe weather and living amongst the indigenous peoples, the author creates a believable tale. Using a third person omniscient perspective, the narrator captures the character’s emotions with imagery. Illuminating the Florida that once was, and taking the reader on its transformation to the Florida we know today, Smith carves into his work a certain ruggedness only a true Floridian can appreciate.
Profile Image for JG (Introverted Reader).
1,123 reviews484 followers
June 20, 2009
Three generations of MacIvey men struggle to survive and thrive in the Florida wilderness among disasters of both the natural and man-made kind.

My mother-in-law insisted that I read this, basically because "it's so interesting to read about the history of the area" where she lives. She lives in Naples, FL, and all I know about the area is her neighborhood. We never get out and see anything when we visit, so that wasn't much of a recommendation for me. But being the meek daughter-in-law that I am, I read it.

And it wasn't bad. Patrick Smith wrote a decent story here. I was afraid I would drag through it for a week or two, but I finished it up in a couple of days. I just kept turning pages to find out what was going to happen next to the MacIvey family.

But the writing, especially the dialog, just wasn't all that great for me. The dialog is in the vernacular, and it just did not ring true. That's very hard to pull off. I can only think of Mark Twain and Lee Smith as being successful at this. Tough shoes to fill.

And then the disasters. They didn't just happen once. They inevitably happened twice, usually within a few pages of each other. That got very repetitive.

My last complaint is about the pacing. The book starts off with Sol MacIvey as an old man in 1968, thinking about how much Florida has changed in his lifetime. Then it flashes back to 1863, when his grandfather was the first MacIvey in the state. Tobias's story is interesting, and so is his son, Zech's. But all of a sudden, we get to about 1908 and Sol's story really starts--and finishes in about 50 pages. All the stuff in the 1800s was interesting, but since Sol started the book, I truly expected to get more than 50 pages of his story. Especially considering that Florida went from being a place where it was possible to buy something like 60,000 acre chunks of land at a time to the Florida that we think of today. Huge changes, and only 50 pages to show for it.

I did enjoy the history. I had no idea that Florida was ever a place where cattle drives and gunfights that would fit right in to a spaghetti western took place. All that was truly interesting. The MacIveys were a great family. They were accepting of others and mostly respectful of the land and I sort of hated to bid them goodbye. I just really wish the writing had been tightened up a little.
Profile Image for Samantha.
155 reviews18 followers
March 8, 2008
Having lived in Florida for most of my life, I found this book very entertaining. It was neat to read about places I know, places I've been to, and to compare the descriptions of how they were many years ago, back when Florida was still wild, to the built-up developed places they are today.

Frankly, it saddens me, and I'm an urban dweller who thinks that backwoods living is having to drive two miles to the grocery store.

That being said, this book is basically an anti-"progress" essay with a story wrapped around it. I received a gratis copy of it nearly four years ago at new employee training for my job. I thought, "Yay! A free book!" and then proceeded to put the book on my shelf after returning home and never picked it up.

But recently, I kept seeing it popping up everywhere I went, so I chose to take it as a sign and started reading it.

It's the story of three generations of the MacIvey family and the trials and tribulations they endured trying to forge a life in the Florida wiilderness. There are times of starvation and drought, of floods and hurricanes. And, it seems, not a shortage of gruesome deaths and vigilante justice.

The best part about this book is the way that simple people living an honest life find success through persistence and hard work. Tobias, the patriarch, begins the saga as a dirt-poor farmer/rancher who starts the family on its course with his first big cattle sale, eventually pulling the family into the more lucrative citrus business. Zech, his son, carries on his father's work, making money hand over fist, but also seeing the way of the future. Where his father refused to own land, believing that the land belonged to everyone, Zech secretly purchased thousands of acres so that he could keep the land wild. Finally, there's Sol, Zech's son, who upon his father's death, clears vast tracts of the MacIvey land to grow vegetables, eventually making his mark in other industries, too, such as banking, real estate development, and the hotel business.

In the end, Sol comes to regret the way he pillaged the land for his own profit and decides to live out his final days at his father's simple cabin in the woods.

Poignant. Exciting. Funny. Satirical. This book was a great read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Desiree.
536 reviews19 followers
June 28, 2022
A good book. A fascinating look at Florida cracker pioneers. A time when hard-scrabble ways could eventually payoff, leaving your grandchildren rich.

Most of the book took place in the 1800's, which was fine by me. Rustling up wild cows, driving them downstate to market, planting (and losing) orange groves.

I could have done without the haughty environmentalism of people who "know better" because they've never been without. Or who think the past is always better and "more natural".

Not as endearing or emotional as The Yearling, perhaps because the majority was told from an adult point of view, rather than being a coming-of-age tale.

Still, a very worthwhile read. I will never forget Tobias and Emma, Zech and Glenda, Sol and Bonnie, or Skillet, Frog, Tawana, Toby, Tiger et al. Especially worthwhile if interested in early Florida history.

Note that the timeline speeds up as you go along, with not much of the story in the 20th Century.
Profile Image for Cindy Marsch.
Author 3 books54 followers
March 9, 2016
I'm choosing four stars mostly because of the personal/family interest. My great grandparents (two sets) were in North and South Florida, respectively, and two grandmothers grew up in those areas, plus one grandfather as a teen working his uncle's cattle operation in the Miami area, and our family has had strong roots throughout the state all my life, and I love the landscapes of "old Florida." The writing quality and the story are more of a three-star effort, but I highly recommend this book to all who love Florida or want to know some of its history.
Profile Image for Sonny.
446 reviews32 followers
August 8, 2023
― “One night as Zach listened apprehensively to the lonesome cry of a wolf, realizing it was a harmless lone voice and not a pack, he wondered what the future held for old adversaries like wolves and bears and for all the other creatures that depended on the land for survival. He remembered that night years ago when he had witnessed the ritual of animals peacefully sharing the life-giving water, some inborn instinct telling them they must share and conserve to survive. Perhaps animals are smarter than men, he thought, taking only what they need to live today leaving something for tomorrow. Even the hated wolf kills only for food and only for immediate need. Maybe it is man who will eventually perish as he destroys the land and all that it offers, taking the animals down with him.”
― Patrick D. Smith, A Land Remembered

Being someone who loves the outdoors and cares about the environment, I have developed a genuine fondness for what I call (for lack of a better term) land-based fiction—books that are as much about the place where the novel takes place as they are about the people. Some examples include Willa Cather’s novels about life on the Great Plains and Ivan Doig’s novels set in his native Montana. Perhaps the dean of these novelists is Wendell Berry, who writes about the fictional town of Port William in his native Kentucky. Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate to have traveled across most of the United States; I have visited all but four of the 48 contiguous states, lacking only Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. I have visited Florida on five separate occasions. A Land Remembered is Patrick D. Smith’s three -generation saga about the development of the state of Florida.

The novel features three generations of the MacIvey family, men and women who battle the hardships of the frontier to rise from their dirt-poor life. They are Florida “Crackers,” a family that was in Florida long before the huge population explosions after World War Two. These people prospered before the days of cars, highways, mosquito control, and air conditioning. The story opens in 1858, when Tobias MacIvey and his wife Emma leave Georgia with a handful of belongings and head to the Florida wilderness where they hope to get a new start on life. They settle near the Kissemee River area and Emma soon gives birth to a son, whom they name Zechariah—or Zech for short. It’s a difficult existence; the family subsists on what food they can find close at hand—roots, berries, squirrel and raccoon. Deer when they can find it. Tobias begins to develop a herd from the wild cows that range through the swamps and prairies—cows that were originally brought to Florida by the Spanish Conquistadors. The MacIveys develop a friendship with some Seminoles, who give them a horse known as a marshtackie and two dogs. With these, they are able to start their own herd of cattle. Driving the cattle to Florida’s west coast, where they are able to sell the cattle. Being frugal people, the MacIveys begin to accumulate some wealth in the form of Spanish doubloons, which they mostly to use to buy land—lot of land. The story ends in the 20th century with Zech’s son, Solomon MacIvey. Sol, as he’s called, will participate in Florida's massive land development, making him a multimillionaire.

Today, Florida is filled with luxury hotels, beach-front resorts, tourists, and a large population of people that largely come from other places. Few realize what Florida was like before the railroad and then the automobile changed Florida forever. The indomitable Crackers had to deal with wolves, snakes, alligators, swamps, rustlers, mosquitoes, hurricanes, sudden freezes, and starvation to carve a living out of the swamp.

I found this book at a local thrift store. I had not previously heard of Patrick D. Smith, although he was nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize. I decided to risk my 50 cents based on the Goodreads reviews. The story was interesting and will especially appeal to readers who are interested in Florida’s history. It’s a reasonably faithful recording of Florida's early years. But Smith’s prose, in my mind, will not be mistaken for Wendell Berry or Larry MacMurtry. So, I won’t be rushing out to buy any other books by Smith.
Profile Image for Heidi.
342 reviews
July 17, 2021
I kept coming across this recommendation so I finally downloaded it on Audible. Historical fiction, yes please. Multigenerational family saga, of course! 4.4 rating on Goodreads, what's not to like? Four hours in, I couldn't take it any longer. Cows were found, cows were moved, cows were lost. That's it, a handful of uninteresting characters and a bunch of cows. I just didn't have the patience to keep going.
Profile Image for Bill.
93 reviews
June 19, 2009
Several have praised this book. They believe it is an excellent historical novel set in mid-19th and earl 20th century Florida. Granted, Florida's history is broad and complex but the history related here is narrow. It is almost entirely focused on the mid-Florida cattle industry developed by three generations of the MacIvey family.

With the exception of the MacIvey clan, almost all 19th Century southerners and most northerners were extremely prejudice. The MacIveys loved Indians and blacks. Their good fortune results from excellent relations with both races. Smith uses this to his advantage, but that was not the way it was.

The male heads of the family in each generation are well drawn. Their female counterparts rarely speak but when they do have excellent ideas their male action oriented counterparts are incapable of thinking. The wives have very hard lives but are utterly devoted to their husbands and the frontier way of life. All other characters are stereotypes.

Smith's story is about the 19th Century. When the frontier closes and the 20th Century begins, he loses interest, plot threads are unresolved, character description lessens, and dialog disappears as he hurries to conclusion
Profile Image for Larry B Gray.
Author 6 books154 followers
March 11, 2011
I can truely say this is one of the best if not the best book I have ever read. It is the kind of book that you will read every word because you do not want to miss a thing. Patrick D. Smith paints a story with his words that captures the true life of 3 generations of a pioneer family in the wilds of Florida in the mid-eighteen hundreds through the next 100 years. Their struggles and triumphs tells a story of courage and a sense of family.

I highly recommend this book as a must read for all ages.

Profile Image for Barb Graf.
26 reviews2 followers
July 29, 2011
Read this the fall of 2010; actually finished it while visiting daughter in FL; all the info about the history of FL really made the trip so much more interesting. A very earthy book about just how hard it was to be a settler and to survive. Also left me with a sad feeling about all that has been lost in the process of "civilization". Have passed this one on to many friends and they have loved it too. A friend from work first suggested it to me; she said it was "the best book I ever read".
Profile Image for Michael.
308 reviews23 followers
June 4, 2020
Ok... I admit.. I thought this was a true story when I started reading it. But quickly realized it was a novel. This book came highly recommended from everyone I knew that read it. Plus, I am a native Floridian that has family that lived in Big Cypress swamp country. I'm very familiar with Florida's environments and wildlife. I am usually not a fan of fiction, but I have to agree with the 5 or 6 people I know that read it .... This was a great book. I actually read it twice. As a 37 year Florida native that dislikes reading fiction, this book was a great read.
Profile Image for ✨Susan✨.
926 reviews184 followers
April 22, 2019
Wow, what a ride.....this is an epic that I won’t soon forget. From rags to riches in three generations and what tolls were paid along the way. Amazing characters, phenomenal narration by George Guidall, and a captivating storyline made this unputdownable for me. I would love to see this made into a HBO/Netflix series. Highly recommend for those that like historical fiction.
Profile Image for Sharon Bruce.
122 reviews
May 21, 2019
this book was excellent! I loved reading about how it was to live off the land back in the late 1800's and how this family progressed through life. the description of the Florida land and animals and birds was amazing, I felt like I was there. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Tricia.
773 reviews41 followers
July 23, 2019
Should be required reading for residents of central Florida. Loved it.
Profile Image for Maurissa.
146 reviews9 followers
September 9, 2023
I was definitely not in the mood for this history when I started this book, but it won me over. By the end I found myself looking around during my commute wondering what the land around looked like before it was settled and cultivated. I was trying to figure out how far north I would have had to go in the late 1800s to find prairie. 4 stars
Profile Image for Lori.
516 reviews
November 15, 2018
Audible version: I wanted to learn a bit about my chosen state's history, and this was a great historical fiction choice! Telling the story of the McIvey's from 1858 to 1968, it taught me a lot I didn't know about Florida, and in a pleasant way.
Profile Image for Spencer Correnti.
14 reviews3 followers
July 30, 2022
This book was as satisfyn’ as a good bowl of fried cattail & koontai after a day of wranglin’ yellowhammers from the marshtackie.

This epic story of “progress” follows three generations of MacIvey’s through 100 years of Florida’s endless swamplands and virgin plains to the superfluous glitz and glamor of city living.

Against all odds, the MacIvey name miraculously survives wilderness life, ultimately creating an empire fueled by the nature that so frequently sets them back. Their success stems from their unwavering commitment and love for one another. Each member of this expanding family plays an integral role within the group- men and women equally enduring.

The family tries holding onto its values as long as possible, but as settlers develop the land, nature flounders, and so too does the McIvey family until all that’s left are memories of the people and places that once were.

At times predictable, this book was still a gripping page-turner. Feelings that swept through me included: enchantment and nostalgia regarding the land, awe at man’s ability for persevering, anger at man’s ability for evil, sympathy for unintended misdeeds, happiness for hard battles fought with triumphant endings, and sorrow for the characters as they faced a ceaseless bout of life’s cruelties.

As cliche as it sounds, the MacIvey’s family motto might as well have been “all you need is love” (and maybe a tin of smoked meat) to have a life of fulfillment.

I’m damned proud to have picked up this here book, as them MacIvey crackers have sure taught me a lot. Let us not forget, we’re all temporary tenants borrowing the land from those who come next.
Profile Image for Amy S.
250 reviews35 followers
December 21, 2009
First, please don't let my three stars keep you from reading this book. It is a FABULOUSLY informative book about the beginnings of Florida as a civilized place. The amazing courage and strength it took to live in this primitive wilderness was amazing. I really enjoyed the information on the Florida frontier life, the real estate boom of the twenties, the Native American life, etc. I really loved that. I gave it a three (and again, I wish I could give a 3 1/2), because he's just not a great writer in my opinion, when it comes to character development and I feel like he rushed the ending. This might be an odd point, but I wondered how his characters only had one child each. He goes in such depth about everyday life, I wish he would have explained how any sort of birth control would have been possible in 1895. A small quibble, though.

As a happy native Floridian, I have to say that pre-1920s, I would not have been able to hack Florida. That's for sure!
Profile Image for Beth Bedee.
282 reviews59 followers
August 6, 2014
I'm almost ashamed to admit that as a native Floridian, I have just now read this novel. I have such a greater appreciation for my home state. I don't drive down a Florida highway anymore without imagining the way it used to look.

The novel follows the MacIvey family through three generations from the Civil War to the 1960s. The writing is simple, yet effective. Each chapter is written cinematically. I can see each scene fading to black. This novel has every literary device a teacher needs and should be a compulsory read for every high school student in Florida.

This novel is in my top five.
Profile Image for Sandi.
1,577 reviews48 followers
February 8, 2015
Entertaining historical fiction set in Florida mainly in the latter half of the 19th century. I very much enjoyed the story of the first generation of the family and the hardships they had to endure and overcome just to eke out a living in the Florida wilderness. Unfortunately the second generation story had a bit too much romance which was tiresome and the third generation story, which hit the 20th century, was shoe-horned into the last couple of hours of the audio. The narration by George Guidall was excellent, as usual, and I would recommend the audio over the written book since the actual writing style was a bit pedestrian.
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