When I needed a book set in Rhode Island for my 52 Books Around the USA Challenge, I was stumped. Certain states are really, really difficult to find. I had recently read a book about a natural disaster, So Terrible a Storm, which chronicled a 1905 storm that resulted in multiple shipwrecks on Lake Superior. I was in the mood for another book like that. After much research, I found The Great Hurricane: 1938 by Cherie Burns.
From the first pages, Burns’ work of non-fiction is a page-turner, that leaves you biting your nails in worry and anticipation of the fate of these New England families. The weather service was no help. The prevailing attitude was that hurricanes did not travel that far north. Yet winds of 186 miles per hour sent a wall of water “trashing boats and smashing homes from West Hampton to Connecticut and Rhode Island.”
Burns style of narrative non-fiction was perfect for the harrowing stories presented here. You can almost feel you were with the families as they moved upwards in their homes, watching as the great wall of water approached to collapse the floors out from under them. Some were lucky to climb onto and float atop pieces of what once had been the roof of their summer homes, deftly dodging the life-threatening debris that littered the water around them. Haunting was the image of the last glimpse of neighbors on their porch watching the storm, never to be seen alive again.
An outstanding book and a good reminder that history is important. Hurricanes are deadly and can travel up the northern Atlantic coast. The survivors of Hurricane Sandy learned that lesson well.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005