author: David Laskin
average rating: 4.00
book published: 2004
read at: 2010/04/26
date added: 2010/04/30
shelves: history, non-fiction
When I checked this out, I thought it was about the winter described in the Laura Engalls Wilder book “The Long Winter” — it’s the same region, but about a specific week 8 years later. (The author briefly touches on that winter as well.) The story is gruesome and fascinating, especially to someone who loved the Little House books as much as I did when I was a child.
Before getting to the blizzard of the title, he spends several chapters on the families who moved into the region over the previous decade, primarily German and Scandinavian immigrants. It sounds like almost no-one realized what they were getting themselves into moving out there.
Then the storm itself: like a disaster movie, he ranges between the action of the storm itself, the failures of the supposed weather experts (o the bureaucracy!), and the various individuals caught in the maelstrom. Like the title says, a great many children were caught in it, mostly because the start of that day was the nicest in weeks, and so it was the first schoolday in weeks as well.
I definitely skimmed over some sections. He goes into particulars about freezing to death, hypothermia, and frostbite that were too intense for me. (I’m a wuss.) But like a disaster movie, one is drawn into the tales, hoping against hope that some will survive. And some do, astonishingly enough.
Not a great book, but a solid piece of historical and meteorological storytelling.