Monday, April 29, 2013

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan

Barnes & Noble

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. 

Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters,
The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.

My previous knowledge of the Dust Bowl was limited to the short-lived HBO series Carnivàle.

(I loved that show and am still irked that it was canceled.)

(Seriously.  After "I am the Omega" HBO thought they could just deny us more?)

(Yes, I am bitter.)

So I was excited to read Egan's book and learn more about that period of time, what caused it, and how people were able to recover.  I should have added "how people survived" to my original query.

Because WOW.  I'm still amazed that anybody made it out alive.  I just can't even imagine.  Can't. Even. Imagine.

Not only were the dust storms destructive, but they hit at the same time as the Great Depression.

This was a fantastic look into an era that most people have never studied.  I loved following the stories of the individuals portrayed by Egan; he did a wonderful job bringing them (back) to life.

From inhaling and coughing up dust, to shoveling out dirt and debris from their houses.

From eating thistle to survive, to the death of children.

To the utter destruction of a quarter of the United States.

Horrifying, my friends.  Absolutely horrifying.

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