The Children's Blizzard: A Novel
by Melanie Benjamin
Hardcover- $28.00

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  "Well researched historical fiction" by Silversolara (see profile) 01/09/21

We meet two sisters who are teachers and a blizzard that is wreaking havoc on the Great Plains just as school is about to be let out.

Raina and Gerda had to make the decision about letting the students run home or to keep them in the school. Either choice was risky...one made the right choice and one didn't.

The decisions made by Raina and Gerda stayed with them and affected them for their entire lives.

We follow the children, the teachers, the townspeople as the blizzard rages, as people become lost, as those at home are left worrying about their family members, and as everyone is hoping for the best.

Once the blizzard was over, the true colors of the characters came out both good and bad.

THE CHILDREN'S BLIZZARD is based on a true event that took lives and maimed many.

It also is about families who were lured here on the pretense that they would have success, but we see they struggled through harsh winters and parched summers trying to eke out a living.

The characters were marvelously developed and interesting with most being likable. I enjoyed learning their present and past stories.

As you read, you will grow fond of the characters and also pity them for how they have to live, even though most are very strong and resilient.

The book was a bit confusing at first with all the characters and some sections were wordy, but THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD is another of Ms. Benjamin's beautifully written, well-researched historical fiction. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 
  "An interesting read about a tragic immigrant experience." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 01/19/21

The Children’s Blizzard, Melanie Benjamin, author, Cassandra Campbell, narrator
In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, offering land to anyone willing to commit to improve it, live on it and farm it for a period of five years. It was open to citizens, those who intended to become citizens and freed slaves. For a small fee at the beginning and end of the term, the farmer would then own it, free and clear. Basically, it was land taken from the Native American Indians who were herded into areas that confined them, called Reservations. Often their children were forcibly taken and educated in schools where unscrupulous teachers and administrators often allowed both the sexual and physical abuse of these innocent victims.
A group of people from Norway flocked to America, in response to the advertising that made this opportunity sound like a paradise just waiting to be experienced. They were coming to a land that would offer them more than their own native country could. In reality, though, it was not paradise. The prairie of Nebraska, where this novel takes place, was stark, lonely and difficult to farm. The weather tried men’s souls. There were lean times and hardships to overcome, as well as the difficulty of initially settling the land. However, once they owned the 160 acres, most fell in love with their land.
This book is about a weather incident that took place in 1888. A devastating blizzard, of a magnitude never seen before, hit the Upper Midwest and was responsible for the death of over two hundred children and adults who were caught unawares by this unpredicted storm. It occurred on a day that began blissfully, unexpectedly temperate and balmy. During the day, while the children were in school and parents were away doing their chores, without warning, a raging cloud formed and descended upon them, stranding them in deadly blinding snow, wind and cold, all with inadequate clothing to protect them because of the unusually warm day that had begun earlier. There was no safe space for the children to run to, and the school buildings themselves were not built to withstand the capricious nature of the weather in the Northern Great Plains. Many froze to death trying to escape or to run home to safety. Many parents died searching for their children in the unbelievable cold. Many died stranded in the blinding whiteout.
How many of us would have known what to do had we been the teachers, in charge of a class of students of varying ages, some not much younger than ourselves at the time and some no older than kindergarten age. Teen-aged teachers Raina Olsen, 16, and her sister Gerda, 18, were both responsible for a class when the storm struck with devastating force, in the Dakota Territory. Each was motivated by a different purpose and each chose a different avenue to protect the students in their charge. Neither escaped unscathed, but one made a choice that had tragic and catastrophic consequences. One became a heroine, and the other was shunned and guilt-ridden. Still, how can one expect teenagers to make decisions grown adults and parents would not have been able to consider.
This book tells the story of a disaster that could not have been prevented, although its magnitude might have been mitigated by better choices. The novel shines a light on a few characters that have to overcome the tragedy and the losses incurred on that day, losses that were devastating. In spite of it all, the novel illuminates the fortitude and courage people showed in the face of enormous danger. It illustrated the resilience of the human spirit, even when facing what seems to be insurmountable conditions.
One of the young children highlighted, a servant in a household who was sold and abandoned by her mother, learns to overcome, adjust and live well after her hand is amputated due to frostbite. Another teenager learns to live without her leg, using a wooden boot, and becomes kind of a nomad to escape the guilt and shame she feels about her actions during the catastrophe. Each finds their own solution to the events of that day which so altered their lives. Even those who did not suffer physical loss, had enormous emotional and mental effects to overcome.
The book is written well and highlights an incident few are aware of. It also is read very well by the narrator who doesn’t let her reading interfere with the story itself.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/11/21

 
  "Fictionalized Account of the Blizzard of 1888" by bkmnmpl (see profile) 07/21/21

Amazing story based on the real blizzard of 1888 in the plains of Nebraska & South Dakota. Highly recommended.

 
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