A Land Remembered Summary

Patrick D. Smith

A Land Remembered

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A Land Remembered Summary

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Published in 1984, A Land Remembered is Patrick D. Smith’s best-selling historical fiction novel. Set in Florida, the story is a three-generational saga that spans from 1858 to 1968. The novel takes an in-depth look at Florida’s changing landscape and economy and follows the MacIvey family as they face hardships of the frontier and go from dirt-poor to wealthy real estate tycoons. The story begins when Tobias MacIvey arrives in the Florida wilderness to begin a new life and ends two generations later with Solomon MacIvey. After battling wild animals, Confederate deserters, starvation, and hurricanes, the family realizes their greatest opponent is greed. But there is also hope to be found in each new generation and reverence for the land and its wildlife.

The book opens with Tobias MacIvey, who has moved his wife Emma and his infant son Zecheriah, or Zech, from Georgia to Florida after an unsuccessful attempt to farm 40 acres of red Georgian clay that he owned just prior to the American Civil War. Tobias, his wife, and his son settle in a forest region of Florida called “scrub country.” At first, food is scarce and what they eat depends upon what Tobias can successfully hunt. The family experiences decades of slow, trudging toil, with very little progress and enormous defeats. Tobias is conscripted and must herd cattle at the orders of the Southern forces.

During this time, the family experiences incredible hardship as their house burns to the ground, their oxen are killed, and they are attacked by a plague of mosquitoes and a ransacking group of Confederate Army deserters. Zech must even rescue his mother from a bear at one point. In this part of the country, the family must live amongst alligators, wild boars, and rattlesnakes. Through hurricanes, freezes, and tick fever, the family somehow remains strong and endures.

The family then relocates to the Kissemee River area. One day, the family’s luck turns around when Tobias discovers a cow that is stranded in a nearby swamp. Tobias takes the cow home and builds it a pen. He hopes to get more cows so that he can sell them.

Soon, Tobias receives cattle dogs, and his stock of cattle starts to grow thanks to the advice of Tobias’s friend Keith Tiger, a Seminole Native American. Keith instructs Tobias to fatten the cows for market. Tobias also receives assistance from Skillit, who is a former slave Tobias meets after the Civil War who fled Tallahassee in order to escape the Ku Klux Klan. Tobias begins taking his cattle to market in Punta Rassa.

Time passes, and soon the cattle ranch is passed down to Zech, who marries a young woman named Glenda. However, unbeknownst to Glenda, Zech is also carrying on an affair with a Seminole Native American woman named Tawanda Cypress. Both Tawanda and Glenda bear Zech sons. The child of Glenda is named Solomon, or Sol, and the child of Tawanda is named Toby.

When Emma and Tobias die, Zech fully inherits the cattle ranch as well as the new orange groves Tobias had just begun planting. He must then deal with new ranger immigrations and is forced to fence off his land. Zech soon has enough wealth to purchase thousands of acres for cattle grazing and for preserving. Suddenly, both Zech and Glenda are killed in accidents, and Sol inherits the business and the land. Sol takes part in Florida’s massive land development. The Everglades are turned into fields and the forests are cut down. He does not stop to listen to protests of indignation from his half-brother Toby. Toby comes to hate Sol for destroying the forest, and the brothers avoid contact for nearly half a century. Soon, Sol moves to Miami and gets into the real estate and produce businesses, even opening a bank. He becomes a multimillionaire and a hermit, having lost the woman he loved, Bonnie, in the hurricane of 1928.

Toby, on the other hand, takes on the responsibility of his father of preserving land for the Seminole Native Americans and the local wildlife. At first unaware of the importance of land preservation, Sol soon comes to realize this whenever he witnesses his own land destroyed by others who are driven by greed. When Sol is about to die, he sees Toby again, and the two make peace.

In the novel, Zech builds upon and expands that which his father created, and as he does so, he changes. Whereas Tobias felt that no man can truly own land, Zech buys and fences off his land and dabbles in the lucrative opportunities of land that his son Sol uses to become extremely wealthy during the 1920s real-estate boom. Though each generation learns from the one that came before, Sol seems to have forgotten what his father and grandfather fought for, and he uses what they gave him to transform the wilderness into space for high-rise condominiums. A strong message of the destructive power of greed, the novel depicts an industry that is implicated in an environmental disaster so expansive that it essentially affects the whole state.