The New York Times
bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife reveals a little-known story of
courage on the prairie: the freak blizzard that struck the Great
Plains, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant
homesteaders--especially their children.
The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a long cold spell, warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats--leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At just the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard struck without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn't get lost in the storm?
Based on actual oral histories of survivors, the novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers--one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It's also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It is Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed immigrants to settle territories into states, and they didn't care what lies they told them to get them there--or whose land it originally was.
At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents' choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today--because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.
The author gives us a story that resonates with us living in the snow belt, this story is about the “Children’s Blizzard”, and it is called that because the storm hit at the exact time the children were sent home from school for the day.
We are given names, and and see through the eyes of the author the harsh conditions. We walk in their shoes as they frantically try to get to safety and warmth, and follow them as they make decisions for themselves and others that change their lives completely.
We meet and follow several characters, and I did love how the author followed through and we moved on with their lives, however short or long.
One thing that stood out was the newspaper articles, of course they wanted to sell papers, but as with today they made up things, and that is why today there is not an accurate count of how many lost their lives.
Your heart is really going to go out to some of these people, and others, well, somehow they get their comeuppance, and we get to read it happen!
What a tragic happening, but the author did a wonderful job of bring this book alive and characters very real! You don’t want to miss this one!
I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Ballantine, and was not required to give a positive review.