I heard about this book from a podcast I listened to recently, entitled 'Tornado Talk'. I thought it sounded interesting and decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by one of the best books I've ever had the privilege of reading.
Slowly laying out a story that the author claimed "needed to be told", Ms. Cross has put together a book unlike any other I have read among similar genres. This book focuses on what has been called the worst tornado outbreak this country has ever experienced (4/27/11), surpassing even the infamous "Super Outbreak" (4/3/74). I was very, very impressed with the amount of research done, making the science understandable and basic, yet not oversimplified for laymen purposes as is found in so many other similar publications.
It is here that Ms. Cross begins to bring the human stories into the developing dangerous situation: a woman and her budding meteorologist-to-be son in Smithville, Mississippi; an experienced meteorologist in Birmingham who would spend literally all day in front of the cameras saving countless lives with his repeated warnings; college students in Tuscaloosa preparing in various ways for the worsening weather; a family in Cordova, Alabama frantically trying to survive. I bring these examples up because this may be the most ingenious way I've ever seen an author combine these stories with the scientific explanation of how that fateful day unfolded. The tension is palpable; the dread is real, and when the worst finally happens, the stories are really only beginning.
The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of the devastation. It is no less tense than the first part, but along with that it becomes literally, emotionally gut wrenching in parts. No spoilers, but I must mention the part of a particular search and rescue worker who volunteers her services along with her search dogs that literally had me bawling.
Whew.....Ms. Cross then does an outstanding job of slowly bringing hope back into the situation: descriptions of emergency rescue personnel along with other heroes, hundreds if not thousands of volunteers descending on Tuscaloosa to help any way they could, emotional reunions of victims with their rescuers, and people slowly getting on with their lives with hope for the future while dealing with the constant but receding pain.
Highly recommended....well done, Kim Cross, a truly magnificent effort.