A quick-paced novel about one of the worst disasters in American history.
The 1900 Galveston hurricane killed more than 8,000 people (about 1 in 6 residents) and destroyed more than 3,600 houses. This short novel, the first in the Horrors of History series, opens with a prologue in which a reporter watches men digging up dead bodies after the storm and finding those of nine children and a nun tied in a line with clothesline. It then follows the experiences of six characters: five based on real people and an entirely fictional one, an African-American named Charlie. Three are boys from a waterfront orphanage run by nuns. One is a doctor who usually enjoys powerful storms and whose workman, Charlie, struggles against the elements on his way home. Another, a young schoolteacher, harbors neighbors whose houses are destroyed, only to fear her apartment won’t stay standing. Character development and nuance take a back seat to dialogue and action that moves quickly from one imperiled character to another. Gruesome details abound, especially after the storm ends and survivors see the corpses and destruction. Such a high-appeal topic could draw in even reluctant readers, although they may have trouble keeping track of all the characters. Scattered black-and-white historic photographs and two maps remind readers just how real the story is.
Not for the fainthearted but likely to appeal to disaster fans. (Historical fiction. 11-14)