A dramatic reminder that a once-in-a-lifetime tornado can last a lifetime for its survivors.



Deadly storms of unprecedented ferocity wreak devastation and an enduring emotional toll on a small Alabama community.

Magazine writer Levine’s debut is the second book this year to document unusually vicious tornado outbreaks in recent history. In Storm Warning (2007), Nancy Mathis followed a May 1999 onslaught in Oklahoma. Here, Levine zeroes in on the rural hamlets of Limestone County, Ala., hit by a series of storms that ravaged 16 states in April 1974. He mostly scants systemic analysis in favor of human interest, describing what actually happens to people unfortunate enough to be targeted by nature’s most destructive force (tornado vortex winds can exceed 300 mph) and considering its protracted impact on survivors. Levine probes individual recall and reaction to make it clear that the dazed storm victims seen thrust before TV cameras are often in the initial stages of numbness, melancholy and confusion that may persist for years, or decades. The author’s intricately detailed, slow-motion renderings of tornado assaults are riveting to the point of agony: “She is being pelted by a rain of stones. Sand-like bits, more glass than stone, prick her skin and are accompanied by a spray of gravel, and by larger, smoother, egg-sized rocks, polished by wind and water.” The book’s title refers to the Fujita Scale maximum of tornado wind force; like Mathis, Levine reviews the critical role Ted Fujita (1920–98) played in comprehending violent weather phenomena but finds the Japanese-born scientist curiously detached from tornados’ human cost.

A dramatic reminder that a once-in-a-lifetime tornado can last a lifetime for its survivors.

Pub Date: June 6, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4013-5220-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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