- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 34 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Tantor Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: May 10, 2016
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01F2LHRSO
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Children's Blizzard Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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The best parts of the book focused on the personal stories of these families, how they were caught in the storm, and affected in its aftermath. One schoolteacher braved the storm after (possibly) tying schoolchildren together and all survived. Another lost more than half of his class trying to travel less than a quarter mile to safety. However, Laskin pulled too many people into the narrative, which made their stories difficult to follow at times. Likewise, the evolution and fate of Army Signal Corp. officers who failed to predict the storm, while interesting, was cluttered with too many backstories, that seemed to bear little or no relationship to the tragedy unfolding in the Plains.
Some of the most fascinating passages just talked about the weather. Laskin made dry meteorological details equal parts magical and terrifying as seen through the recollections of nineteenth century pioneers. "The air popped and sizzled when a hand was passed over someone's head," because the violent storm generated so much static electricity. p. 176. One man found that "when his fingers snapped  fire came from them," and another watched "sparks of electricity leap from the gilt molding used for hanging pictures." p.176-177. Likewise, reports of powdered snow, pulverized by the storm, suffocating and blinding people as it clogged airways and sealed frozen eyelids together, made it easier to understand how tough pioneers became lost and frozen a hundred feet from safety.
At times, though, the meteorological details weighed down the narrative. An early passage describing how cold and warm fronts converge, and speculating on the impact of Rocky Mountain topography on storm development, was mind-numbing. Though the author valiantly tried to rescue the description with thoughtful metaphors, those fragments of understanding seemed randomly cobbled together. Pictures - perhaps extracts from historical meteorological maps (referred to in the text, but unseen by the reader) - would have been a welcome shortcut. While these few dense passages lack the finesse of more polished works (such as Isaac's Storm), persistence is well-rewarded by the overall story.
Finally, in the aftermath of the storm, Laskin's reflection that the "140-year-old scheme" to settle the Plains "has failed at the cost of trillions of dollars, countless lives and immeasurable heartbreak," was food for thought.
In sum, though slow at times, Laskin's account of the "Childrens' Blizzard" was often insightful and evocative, and I highly recommend the book.
Exhaustively researched, extensively detailed, yet eminently readable; The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin relates the heartrending, frightening, story of the vicious blizzard of January 12, 1888 across America’s midwestern prairie. Some of the narrative gets lost in the details, but, then, this must have been a very hard tale too tell. It’s not exactly an easy one to read, either.
Recommendation: If you read and enjoyed Eric Larson’s book, Isaac’s Storm; you’ll like this one too.
“Fiber by fiber, the cold was paralyzing their hearts. Eventually the signals were so faint that they failed to trigger any cardiac response at all. Circulation ceased. With no oxygen the brain guttered and went dark.” (p. 197)
HarperCollins. Kindle Edition, 307 pages