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F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century Hardcover – June 6, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On April 3, 1974, a megastorm rampaged through the central U.S., unleashing at least 148 tornados, six of which attained the rare and overpowering "F5" category, with sustained winds of over 260 miles per hour. The storm killed hundreds and caused billions of dollars in property damage. Levine, a contributor to the New York Times, focuses on the impact in the rural county of Limestone, Ala., where dozens of tornados cut a ruinous swath across the land. A thorough journalist and accomplished stylist, Levine does an excellent job of putting us in the minds of the area natives—a high school freshman, the local sheriff, a power lineman—whose lives were upended, and in some cases, ended by the storm. Levine also has the descriptive prowess to bring the tornados to vivid existence on the page. However, at times the sheer number of characters and scenes makes the narrative difficult to follow. Levine is also less than successful in his attempt to link the storm to a particular zeitgeist of 1974 America; whatever happened that day, its consequences didn't expose the country in any manner similar to what Hurricane Katrina left in its wake. Still, it's hard to fault a disaster story as engaging as this. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

A surprising three-quarters of the world's tornadoes touch down in the United States, making them as American as, well, apple pie. Mark Levine examines this phenomenon in the context of a single, historic night, bringing the devastation vibrantly to life through the stories of the people who lived through it. Levine's strength is definitely the human element: while the personal narratives are gripping, F5 generally lacks comprehensive scientific explanations and details for the layman. A few critics also commented that Levine's attempts to attach a greater meaning to the storm-attributing nature's fury to the political and social climate of mid-1970s America-feel awkward and irrelevant. Readers who can overlook these missteps should enjoy this "uneven but unquestionably compelling history" (Toledo Blade).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax (June 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401352200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401352202
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is a book that I'll probably read a second time.
M. Peck
Also, there are many characters in this book which make various appearances throughout.
Mike
F5 is the designation for the most destructive of tornadoes.
C L

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C L on June 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
F5 is the designation for the most destructive of tornadoes. Of course, there is plenty of description of destruction in this book. But, what sets this book apart from typical "weather junkie" books is the description of injury and emotional pain. You come to know three good families and some assorted, fascinating people, including a heck of a good county sheriff and a tornado expert who is almost weird, he is so enthusiasic about the storms. You see how some of these people are struck down. You see how the survivors suffer afterwards. F5s are not just destructive. They are horrible. In the book they seem to be almost alive and deliberately attacking the innocent. A hell of a good story of what some people went through thirty years ago.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Peck on July 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I learned of Mark Levine's book, F5, some weeks ago, but before I had a chance to read it, my attention was captivated by a lead story in the media. A monstor tornado had just obliterated my boyhood home of Greensburg, Kansas. I had not lived there for most of my adult life, decades, but, I still had family and relations living there. Anyone growing up in Kansas has heard plenty of tornado tales, yet, I never saw one personally, and had only the vaguest idea of their causes. Mark Levine's book has changed that. F5 gives a comprehensive view of the causes and conditions that spawn them and makes the science come alive in the life of the man who came to be known as "Mr. Tornado."

Most compelling, however, is Levine's ability to get inside the lives of more than a dozen people of Limestone County, Alabama who experienced a super outbreak of tornadoes on April 3, 1974. I marveled at his understanding of these unfortunate people. He must have spent countless hours interviewing them, most probably over many repeated visits. The book opens with an account of a couple of teen-agers who drive into the teeth of this killer storm. The immediacy of the authors prose puts you in the car with them, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel.

In F5, we know what these few experienced, what they lost, and the agony they suffered. We also learn how their lives were permanently altered by those brief, horrifying, and blurry moments in 1974. This is a book that I'll probably read a second time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mike on July 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was a great read because it felt like I was actually witnessing first hand the events of April 3, 1974. Yes, the book does jump around a little bit. It starts off with some foreshadowing and then backtracks to pre-April 3, 1974. The author describes the history and people of Limestone County, Alabama. In addition, there are a few chapters that break up the story, describing the nature of tornadoes and some politcal events of 1974. Also, there are many characters in this book which make various appearances throughout. It may appear to be a bit confusing, but eventually I was able to keep track of who was whom. But the story does wrap up nicely with an epilogue that informs the readers of the present day victims of the "superoutbreak". But beware, this story mostly takes place in Limestone County, Alabama. So don't expect a detailed account of the 148 tornadoes that swepted across the country on April 3-4, 1974
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Verbal T on July 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well written and explains the carnage of tornados in detail from the people who expierenced it. April 3, 1974 impacted alot of Americans and F5 describes well how the weather impacted a small town. The beginning does drag a bit at first, espically when reading the dramatic introduction, but that is because Levine wanted to make sure all of the characters were well explained. Once into part two the story takes off and the momentum continues until the end. A good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Seitz on May 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I gave this a four star because I am a researcher of historic storm events and will like most writings on the subject. I am familiar with the 1974 Outbreak and like how Levine brings it right to you from the eyes of those in the path. Reads like a novel at times and overall like his style. I would have liked to seen more descriptive maps of the tornado paths and of the location of the hospitals and closed roads. It was hard to piece together time and distance when the descriptions had no mapping reference other than if you supplied your own. Fianlly, I know the author was looking to do a story about the whole Outbreak and the Alabama story was so compelling he stuck with it generally. I would like to see a work about the Outbreak as a whole by the author as I think he would do it great justice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
F5: DEVASTATION, SURVIVAL AND THE MOST VIOLENT TORNADO OUTBREAK OF THE 20TH CENTURY comes from an award-winning magazine writer and is a powerful survey of the 1974 tornado array - some 148 of them - which struck thirteen states in the Midwest and killed hundreds. F5 reads like fiction but packs in science details on the six that achieved F5 force status - the rarest, largest of tornadoes. By including case history vignettes of individuals affected during the storms, F5 pairs science with a personal touch lending it appeal into general interest lending library holdings, where it's sure to be popular.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roger L. Pyle on July 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Levine's book has passages that keep you transfixed, but jumps around like the tornadoes he's writing about, which makes it a somewhat confusing read. First you are in a car that's being tossed about then you are riding with a utility worker and by the time you find out what happened to the occupants of the car you don't know who's where exactly. Overall I recommend it but you need index cards to keep track of all the unfortunate victims of this disaster.
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