Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever

Geoff Williams. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $27.95 (355p) ISBN 978-1-60598-404-9
In his attempt to humanize the Great Flood of 1913, the natural disaster that devastated hundreds of towns in more than a dozen states and claimed over 700 lives, Williams (C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race) often drifts off course. His narrative, which spans just six spring days, details the myriad forms of destruction visited upon the land by tornadoes, torrential rains, and subsequent floods, and he frequently pauses to flesh out backstories and grisly fates. But his digressions, like the deluge, often go too far afield and oversaturate the tale; Civil War soldiers wander in, Mark Twain makes an appearance, and a veritable ark of circus animals fight to survive. Williams’s style ranges from formal to chatty, and his interweaving of pithy commentary and personal speculation makes it occasionally difficult to parse extensive research and firsthand accounts from Williams’s narrative embellishments. There’s plenty of fascinating ephemera, but Williams’s flood suffers from something folks struggling to stay afloat in 1913 would’ve understood all too well: too much of a good thing. 16 pages of photos. Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 02/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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