Monday, January 25, 2021

2021 - Book #11 - The Children's Blizzard; Melanie Benjamin

TITLE/AUTHOR: The Children's Blizzard; Melanie Benjamin

PUBLISHER:  Ballantine/Random House

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Historical

FORMAT:  PP/LENGTH: 368 pp.

SOURCE:  NetGalley

SETTING(s):  Nebraska, North Dakota (Great Plains)


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: A fictionalized account of the 1888 Children's blizzard that hit the Great Plains and 235 lives were lost.


BRIEF REVIEW:  Based on true events,  January 12, 1888 was a bright and mild morning following a severe cold spell in the Great Plains.  Children who had been home from school because of the cold spell were able to return to school that morning with lighter than normal clothing.  When the blizzard arrived later that day with temperatures dropping to minus 40 below and the blinding snow blanketed the area, a disaster was in the making.  School teachers Gerda and Raina Olsen,  just teens themselves, 16 and 18 years old, were unprepared for the tough decision they had to make: keep the children in their classrooms and risk having them freeze to death when heat ran out and temps plummeted or send them on their way and hope that they got home safely. 

The first half of this book pretty much explores what occurred up until the blizzard hit. We learn more about the Olsen sisters  and the choices they made while the second half tell of the blizzard's aftermath and the backlash that followed for the sisters.  While this story was interesting enough to me, I think it could have been improved on as well.  I found myself wanting to know more about the families who lost a loved one in the blizzard and less about child exploitation.  Some of the writing felt a bit uneven and jarring at times as well and even like the time period did not feel right. Despite this, I am still glad I tried this one.  I do want to read the 2005, non fiction book, The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin to compare the specifics about this terrible event.  I feel that this would make a good book group discussion choice.


RATING: 3.5/5

17 comments:

  1. Things seemed a lot colder in 1888 .... and this storm sounds pretty horrific ... good grief you can sense the cold that froze people to death -- how awful. Scary to imagine.

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  2. This is one I really want to read.

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  3. Thank you for this review. I am on the fence about Melanie Benjamin. I thought her last book was missing something too but I loved The Aviator's Wife and the one about the 1920's film making with Caroe Lombard. I think I will skip one.

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  4. I have this one. I even started it, but then put it aside, planning to return to it later. For some reason, it didn't engage my interest like I thought it would. It was an arc from NetGalley. Actually, the nonfiction version might be my choice.

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  5. How awful! I would like to read this sometime.

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  6. Oh yes this does sound like it would be a great discussion book. What a terrible choice they had to make. Even with the issues it sounds like an interesting read! :)

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  7. I'm surprised that hasn't been a movie.

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  8. This sounds like a harrowing story. I find it very hard to read stories of children in peril.

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  9. I saw a good review of this book on someone's blog so got myself a copy and now I am worried that I won't like it! Yikes! I'll have to go into it with an open mind.

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  10. I read the 2005 book and really liked it. I also thought that there were some things in this book that could be improved on, but I was interrupted so many times that I blamed it on the fact that I never had time to get into it.

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  11. The actual blizzard scenes are still etched in my memory. What those children went through when dismissed from school that day was horrific. Sad, too, that those in charge of the kids were basically children themselves.

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  12. Scary having to take decisions like that.

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  13. I think I'll skip this one, but maybe I'll read David Laskin's. While I enjoy historical fiction, Laskin's may be a bit more in depth. I can certainly imagine that cold weather. We had only lived in Nebraska (Lincoln) for a couple of years when we had a terrible storm with temps in the negative 20s. The windchill was somewhere around negative 40. Thankfully, we were able to stay inside our warm home!

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  14. This sounds so familiar - I wonder if there have been a few books written about this occurrence.

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  15. I was on the fence about this one. After your review I still am.

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  16. Oh goodness this sounds really sad. Not sure if it's for me but at this time.

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  17. Gage is reading I Survived The Children's Blizzard, 1888 by Lauren Tarshis with his tutor right now. Maybe I need to ask him more questions!

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