Feature

Also of interest....in the aftermaths of disaster

Facing the Wave; The Year Without Summer; Wave; Falling to Earth

Facing the Waveby Gretel Ehrlich(Pantheon, $25)Gretel Ehrlich has created “a searing portrait of a ravaged land,” said Laura Pearson in Time Out Chicago. Three months after Japan was hit by a massive 2011 tsunami, the author viewed the damage and met many survivors, including a fisherman who watched the wave engulf his hometown, an elderly man planting seeds in irradiated soil, and a town’s last living geisha. Ehrlich intersperses bits of haiku, and while “her reportage is arguably stronger than the poetry,” all flows together powerfully.

The Year Without Summerby William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman(St. Martin’s, $28)This account of a planet-altering volcanic eruption “has a busy narrative itinerary,” said Daniel Dyer in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora killed well over 90,000 people, darkened skies, drastically cooled temperatures, wilted crops, and may have even led Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. Though dry at times, this well-researched work keeps the alarming details “cascading like lava.”

Waveby Sonali Deraniyagala(Knopf, $24)If this isn’t the saddest story ever told, “it’s the saddest I ever want to hear,” said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Sri Lankan–born economist Sonali Deraniyagala was visiting her home country when 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami struck, killing her husband, parents, and two children. That shock comes first, in a book that “opens beneath you like a sinkhole.” Anger, guilt, and thoughts of suicide follow—made somewhat bearable by “the author’s gift for evoking her life before everything changed.”

Falling to Earthby Kate Southwood(Europa, $16)The 1925 “Tri-State Tornado,” which killed nearly 700 people, serves “quite appropriately as the hand of fate” in Kate Southwood’s promising first novel, said Nicholas Mancusi in TheDailyBeast.com. Here, the twister destroys every building in an Illinois town except a lumberyard, setting the owning family on another tragic path when they must contend with their neighbors’ resentment. Southwood’s prose, with its “razor-sharp images” of life on the prairie, “is reminiscent of Willa Cather’s.”

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