Flower of Iowa. Lance Ringel. Distant Mirror Press, 2020. 578 pages. $36.00.
Lance Ringel’s Flower of Iowa is an expansive novel that is sure to please lovers of historical fiction. The novel is set against the turbulent backdrop of France during the final months of World War I. The setting, the writing, and the story are reminiscent of Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms, but in Flower of Iowa, the lovers are gay. In the tradition of stirring historical novels, this grand epic showcases courage, the resilience of the human spirit, and the transformative power of love.
Naïve, idealistic American soldier Tommy Flowers, a small-town boy from the Midwest, struggles to become a good soldier in the trenches. He draws the attention of Nicole Lacroix, a free-spirited French barmaid, but soon finds himself in a rivalry for her affections with his brash Australian lieutenant, Jamie Colbeck. At the same time, however, Tommy becomes best pals with savvy young British soldier David Pearson. The friendship soon develops an unexpected intimacy. Baffled by their feelings, but committed to exploring them further, Tommy and David do everything to spend time together, even after David is wounded and sent home to England to convalesce.
In addition to being a moving love story, the novel also offers detailed insights into World War I. Flower of Iowa is meticulously researched, documenting the pivotal battles of 1918, life at the front lines, and the everyday challenges and tragedies facing the soldiers of the Great War. Ringel has created an instant classic, deeply compelling and authentic, recalling a fraught time when love between two men was territory as perilous and uncharted as No Man’s Land.
Ringel has enjoyed a four-decade career as a journalist and writer. He first published his novel Flower of Iowa as an eBook in 2014. This debut met with unexpected success in the United States and Europe. Concurrently, Ringel’s reputation as a playwright is growing. His play In Love with the Arrow Collar Man, based on the true story of famed illustrator J.C. Leyendecker and his muse-lover Charles Beach, premiered at New York’s Theatre 80 St. Marks. Ringel has also distinguished himself with an impressive career in politics. He served as Assistant Commissioner of Human Rights under New York Governor Mario Cuomo, and at the National Gay Task Force under veteran LGBTQ advocate Virginia Apuzzo. A native of central Illinois, Ringel currently resides in both New York City and Poughkeepsie, NY, with his spouse of 43 years, actor-composer-director Chuck Muckle.