The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche

Gary Krist, Author . Holt $26 (315p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7705-6

In a briskly paced and vividly written account, novelist Krist (Bad Chemistry ) relates the tale of two trains, trapped on the tracks in Washington's Cascade Mountains in February 1910, that were subsequently swept away by the deadliest avalanche in American history. With a wealth of end notes attesting to the scope of his research, Krist complements his thorough recreation of events with telegrams, journal entries and newspaper clippings. He also does an elegant job of evoking the hubris that led to the crisis, the claustrophobia and panic of those who endured it and the misery of those left to deal with its aftermath, from the devastated relatives to the Great Northern Railway officials whose trains, Krist writes, were supposed to be "the ultimate symbols of twentieth-century America's new mastery over its own geography and climate." The tragedy gains resonance from Krist's avoidance of hyperbole, as he chooses instead to draw out the emotional toll by focusing on individual stories like that of Ida Starrett, who was the last person to be rescued but who was trapped in the snow atop her own dying baby. As a novelist, he also displays a keen sense for the telling of the story itself and the importance of balancing detail with pace. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4299-0570-1
Paperback - 315 pages - 978-0-8050-8329-3
Show other formats
Discover what to read next