Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Worst Hard Time

I'm not sure if I've mentioned before that a friend and I started a book group where we work. Our book for July was The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan. I think I've mentioned before that I have a hard time read non-fiction; well, in this case I had no problem at all. In fact, I read this quite fast. Egan took the time to introduce many characters and set up a situation in a well-described setting, all components of my favorite kinds of fiction. He really built up a sense of dread and foreboding, as the time of the great dust storms of the 1930's arrived. It's really a disaster story. I think those who enjoyed reading about the Titanic or Into Thin Air (about a horrible Mount Everest expedition) would appreciate this as well. We watch as the characters we got to know so well, and who seemed to be thriving in the American mid-west, lose everything, and still struggle to hang on and resist leaving their adopted land. Before reading this I really had no idea of the struggle these people endured. In fact, I hadn't even heard of these great dust storms either. It's really quite amazing. Crops were buried under dust, farm animals died from lungs and stomachs getting filled with dust, families huddled in their homes, hanging wet sheets around all the doors and windows to try to keep the dust out... for nearly ten years. Incredible.

Timothy Egan bases his narrative on interviews he had with survivors from the storms or from the writings of those who lived in it. Filled with historical details, yet it retains the feel of a story rather than a history book. Highly recommended.

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