The Door of the Sad People is a coming-of-age story patterned after the Colorado coal mining wars culminating in the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. Already in the early 20th century Corporate America is revealing a tyrannous countenance, and society in general fosters industrial, racial, and sexual enslavements. Tree Penhallow, almost thirteen, is violently banished from his home in Colorado Springs where his English father is director of a prison-like tuberculosis sanitorium. Rescued from death in the prairie by “Kill Devil” Dare, a veteran of the Philppines War and a labor organizer, Tree is then enabled by “the miners’ angel,” Mother Jones, to be taken in as a boarder by a proud old Hispanic family in the coal mining district of Los Tristes. In that family he finds love and a passion for art, in Dare he finds a surrogate father who teaches him to work in the mines and to glimpse the profound meaning of human solidarity. When Tree discovers that he is the grandson of the very tycoon who owns the mines and virtually the State of Colorado, he is briefly tempted to abandon the hardscrabble life. However, when his adoptive family of women and children is massacred by militia during a strike, Tree defies the psychopathic Lieutenant Shiflit and leads surviving miners and their families to safety. For him the visionary “door” opens to understanding of what is holding humanity together — compassion and art.”
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