In a tour de force of historical reportage, Timothy Egan’s National Book Award–winning story rescues an iconic chapter of American history from the shadows.
The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Timothy Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, he does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times). In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful reminder about the dangers of trifling with nature.
Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account of how America's great, grassy plains turned to dust, and how the ferocious plains winds stirred up an endless series of "black blizzards" that were like a biblical plague: "Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains" in what became known as the Dust Bowl. But the plague was man-made, as Egan shows: the plains weren't suited to farming, and plowing up the grass to plant wheat, along with a confluence of economic disaster the Depression and natural disaster eight years of drought resulted in an ecological and human catastrophe that Egan details with stunning specificity. He grounds his tale in portraits of the people who settled the plains: hardy Americans and immigrants desperate for a piece of land to call their own and lured by the lies of promoters who said the ground was arable. Egan's interviews with survivors produce tales of courage and suffering: Hazel Lucas, for instance, dared to give birth in the midst of the blight only to see her baby die of "dust pneumonia" when her lungs clogged with the airborne dirt. With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan's powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers' minds.
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I love books of historical nature. This read satisfied all my needs. It was heart breaking, scary, and inspiring. These Folks definitely endured extra hard times, but through their grit, strength, and determination showed the ability of man kinds toughness.
The Worst Hard Times
The story of the very poor decisions of the men in power at the time that created the dust bowl. For those that "lived it" it was indeed The Worst Hard Time. I highly recommend this book.
Excellent and informative!
I listened to this while driving through the southern “high plains” this week with my family. A great book for teenagers and adults. It is well written and very interesting. A fabulous way to learn about why the dustbowl happened and what America did to stop it. Also, interesting to hear what is going on now in that area of the country. Well worth reading.