The Children's Blizzard. Melanie Benjamin. 2021. [January] 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: They came on boats, on trains, great unceasing waves of them—the poor, the disenfranchised, the seekers, the dreamers. Second and third generations of farmers eking out an existence on scraps of farms divided up among too many sons. Political agitators no longer welcome in their homelands. Young men fleeing conscription in a king’s army. Married couples starting out. Bachelors from towns with few women. The poor from tenements with air so stifling and foul there was no room to breathe, let alone dream.
Premise/plot: Melanie Benjamin's newest historical novel is about the blizzard of January 12, 1888 nicknamed the children's blizzard. It was a deadly storm--a heartbreaking one. Her novel is told from multiple points of view--so, so, so, so many points of view. The first half focuses on the day of the storm...and perhaps the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. The second half focuses on the aftermath of the storm and its effect on survivors.
My thoughts: What you see is what you get. I like that when it comes to books. I *need* that when it comes to books. And I think sometimes this goes unappreciated. I'd rather have a TITLE and COVER together tell me everything I need to know about what to expect in a book than to have a cover that gives little to nothing away and a "clever" title. Add in jacket flap where it's just "superb" "outstanding" "one of a kind" "will blow you away" "phenomenal" "ground-breaking" "unforgettable" with no hint of what is in between the pages and you've lost me.
If you have an interest in pioneers, school teachers, natural/weather disasters, journalism, immigrants, or if you just really love historical fiction, then this one may be a good fit for you.
It may not be a good fit for you if you are a sensitive reader who has never read about the children's blizzard before. (Hint: The children's blizzard was DEADLY. Not everyone survived; those who did survive didn't always survive whole--physically, mentally, emotionally. It devastated whole communities.) If you are a sensitive reader but are more familiar with this time in history--and this particular storm--I would recommend the book. This book isn't more brutal/intense than the nonfiction books on the topic.
I have read David Laskin's excellent The Children's Blizzard. (I believe Melanie Benjamin has as well in her research.)
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews