From the New York Times best-selling author of The Aviator’s Wife comes a story of courage on the prairie, inspired by the devastating storm that struck the Great Plains in 1888, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders, especially schoolchildren.
“Melanie Benjamin never fails to create compelling, unforgettable characters and place them against the backdrop of startling history.” (Lisa Wingate, author of The Book of Lost Friends)
The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats – leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as 16 were suddenly faced with life-and-death decisions: Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?
Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers – one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured Northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there – or whose land it originally was.
At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today – because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.
One January morning in the Dakota Territory it is so mild. So mild, in fact everyone goes about their day without coats, hats, mittens or gloves. Children go off to school. Adults head to town to get their essentials. It is a beautiful day. Until Mother Nature takes a quick and fierce turn. Out of nowhere a strong winter blizzard has everyone trapped without any means of staying safe.
Sisters Raina and Gerda Olsen are school teachers in different parts of the territory. They both are trapped with children in their charge when the blizzard hits. One makes tough decisions and one is a coward. Then there is little Anette. She is a servant girl who is determined to make it home in time so she will not get into trouble. These three young ladies lives are changed forever because of decisions made this day.
This is not my favorite book by this author. She has lots of good books but this one fell a little short for me, especially at the first. There are lots and lots of characters and you really have no idea who they are or how they are related. There is very little back story but, it does get better as the story unfolds but it is a rough start. I did enjoy the historical setting. It’s been quite a while since I have read one in this time period.
This would be a good book in front of a fire! Grab your copy today!
I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.