Aftershocks

Richard S. Wheeler, Author Forge $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-86527-6
With his usual skillful storytelling, Wheeler resurrects the powerful plot formula and expert characterization shown in Second Lives (1997) by transporting the reader to the aftermath of the massive 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. A vast historical drama unfolds in the resulting catastrophe, which Wheeler dramatizes through the fates of six people caught in the devastation that will test their capacity for charity and their ability to survive. Ambitious architect Harrison White sees the cataclysm as a great opportunity, selfishly placing his career above his family's safety. Arthritic photographer Katherine Steinmetz helplessly watches her lover die and then must face her future alone and crippled. Carl Lubbich is a corrupt city engineer whose guilt is overwhelming and justifies a horrible final payment. Ginger Severance is an idealistic young missionary whose efforts to help the refugees are often thwarted, and Sergeant Major Jack Deal, a soldier with a ruthless heart, can't pass up the chance to pillage and loot. Courage and cowardice, kindness and selfishness all surface during the crisis. As he nimbly skirts melodrama, Wheeler vividly depicts his characters struggling with themselves and with extraordinary circumstances. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
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