David A. Schwinghammer
· Soldier's Gap
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight
· Bereavement Blues
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7
· Speed Dating With 'Janeane Garofalo'
· The Cynic
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer - Chapter Seven
· Mengele's Double, Chapter 7
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Six
· The Nuclear Option
· Empty Mansions, book review
· Pilgrim's Wilderness, book review
· WWII Cartoonist, book review
· Write Yourself Into a Corner, book review
· Roanoke Island, book review
· Billboard Theology
· Baghdad Without a Map, book review
· Into the Wild, book review
· The Zookeeper's Wife (review)
· Alumni Game
· Girls Who Wear Glasses
· The Do Drop Inn
· Ode to Neve Campbell
· Jacks or Better 101
· Never My Love
· 3 O'Clock
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One of the worst storms in American history trapped children on their way home from school.
David Laskin sets up the story of the January 12, 1888, blizzard well. He provides the back story of the Mennonite and Norwegian immigrants, the valiant teachers and students, and the Civil War veteran, whose daughter took refuge in a haystack during the storm. The reader learns to care about the participants before the blizzard starts and there is gut-wrenching suspense as the victims head out into the storm. Which of them will survive? Will any of them survive?
The main characters are the Schweizers, Swiss-German Mennonites who had emigrated to America from the Ukraine, the Rollags from Norway, and Walter Allen, a mischievous little boy who adds comic relief to an otherwise tragic story.
The day of the blizzard starts off unusually warm and the kids on their way to school and the farmers working in the fields aren't dressed properly. The temperature drops precipitously and the snow isn't ordinary slow; it's more like blinding sleet.
Laskin is also a weather geek; he provides more than we want to know about the cause of this "Storm of the Century." He provides info about lows and highs, jet streams and jet streaks (this little bugger is a main culprit), fronts, and St. Elmo's Fire. He also shows how the Signal Corps weathermen bungled the forecast. It's all very informative but we want to know what happened to the Schweizer children and Will Allen. An especially riveting scene is when Laskin explains hypothermia, using the Schweizer boys as an example.
In an epilogue, Laskin tells us what happened to the survivors and he makes a rather specious statement, suggesting that this storm put an end to the land boom on the Great Plains and that eventually immigrants learned that, although the soil was some of the best in the world, because of droughts and blizzards this land was uninhabitable. Apparently white people are leaving in droves and the land is returning to the buffalo and the Indians. When Wovoka told his people to dance and the buffalo would return, he wasn't too far wrong.
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