Rating: 4 Stars
This was an incredibly compelling read about an earthquake that I never knew even happened. It was such an engrossing read, I could hardly put it down. This was not just an old earthquake either, so the fact that I went this long without hearing about it is kind of alarming. It was a 7.5 quake that killed 28 (possibly 29) people and injured scores of others. Most of the victims never stood a chance, the moment the mountainside gave way and sent an avalanche down onto several campsites in the area. The force of the wind was so strong, it literally ripped clothing off victims and survivors alike. In the aftermath a lake was created by this quake, named Earthquake Lake, which still exists today. With the quake came the threat of the dam in the Madison River Canyon bursting, which would have potentially killed another 200 people trapped there. Only adding to the chaos and confusion was that this occurred near midnight on August 17th, so survivors were forced to search for friends and family in the dark.
The narrative moves back and forth, following various friends and families out on summer excursions, enjoying their vacations. Interspersed throughout were photos taken before, during, and after. I did not mind this way of storytelling at all, as I feel like it helped create kind of a sense of chaos, which is exactly what the survivors would have been feeling. I could see the scenes playing out in my head, much like you would see on a show or in a movie, with the angles jumping back and forth from one story to another.
I appreciate when photos are used to maximize their value, instead of being all lumped together either in the middle of a book, or at the end. I think it does a disservice to the story, and lucky this text suffered no such problem.
For as much as I complain about technology ruining our lives (ironic, right, as I type this on my laptop about a book I read on my Kindle), situations like this make me appreciate what we do have. I can not even imagine the fear that gripped those who knew their loved ones were camping in the area and had no idea if they were safe or not, once word got out that the massive earthquake had occurred.
When tragedy like this occurs, we often see the very best and worst of humanity. Luckily, I feel like here we only saw the best. Complete strangers banded together to help in any way they could, sometimes while injured themselves. Pockets of survivors worked together, knowing it might take a while for help to reach them.
In addition to the plethora of photos from the period, the author also relies on eyewitness accounts, news paper articles, and official records that detailed the event. I can never say it enough, contemporary sources are KEY.
Fast-paced story telling that keeps you interested the whole way through. Highly recommended.