Posts tagged ‘Erik Larson’

May 4th, 2011

Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices

by Gwen

Hotel Angeline

Take 36 of the best authors the Pacific Northwest has to offer, (A few of which are my favorites) assign them each a chapter, give them two hours to write that chapter and just to make it interesting, let’s do it live, in front of an audience.

The Authors: Kathleen Alcalá, Matthew Amster-Burton, Kit Bakke, Erica Bauermeister, Sean Beaudoin, Dave Boling, Deb Caletti, Carol Cassella, Maria Dahvana Headly, William Dietrich, Robert Dugoni, Kevin Emerson, Karen Finneyfrock, Clyde W. Ford, Jamie Ford, Elizabeth George, Mary Guterson, Teri Hein, Stephanie Kallos, Erik Larson, Stacey Levine, Frances McCue, Jarret Middleton, Peter Mountford, Kevin O’Brien, Julia Quinn, Nancy Rawles, Suzanne Selfors, Jennie Shortridge, Ed Skoog, Garth Stein, Greg Stump and David Laskey, Indu Sundaresan, Craig Welch, Susan Wiggs.

Even better? 50% of the proceeds from the book go into literacy and art programs.

The best part? The book was good! All of that build up and the story behind the writing of the book had me a bit skeptical. I mean how could the product of so many voices, styles, genres, and backgrounds work? It could have been a colossal mess.The differences were subtle and knowing the story behind the book added a quality to it that is hard to put into words. I found myself torn between wanting to savor every word and hurrying to see how my favorite authors, one of the non-fiction variety, could mold their personal touch into the fictional story of a residence hotel and it’s teenage main character.

Favorite authors + one story + strong theme/plot + wacky characters + proceeds go to charity =One fabulous book that makes you feel like you are doing good, just by reading it.

I call that a Win/Win.

For more on Hotel Angeline, including videos of some of the authors reactions, check out the very special site for Hotel Angeline.

April 22nd, 2011

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

by Gwen


I don’t get all gushy and stalkerish over authors, but if I did, Erik Larson would be first on my list. He nails the idea of narrative non-fiction so well, I find myself so caught up with the story, that I forget that I already know how it ends. He builds that much suspense and his profiles of the people he writes about are so deep that I feel like I know them.

Take Isaac’s Storm, it’s all about the hurricane that slammed into Galveston on September 8, 1900. A simple search let’s us know that it is the deadliest natural disaster to strike the U.S., with an estimated 8,000 souls lost. Larson takes the story to a whole new level by focusing on Isaac Cline, the head of the weather service office in Galveston and many of his neighbors. By doing this, Larson puts a face on the victims. He makes them people you might know, might have had over to dinner, could have served as godparents for their kids. You get to like them or loathe them, but no matter what, you feel their fear, pain, loss…everything.

Two things struck me as I was reading this.

First, the hubris of America in 1900 is dangerously similar to the way we think now. The “experts” on weather then thought that Galveston would never ever be hit by a hurricane. If it did, the water levels would never go up too far, besides, most homes were built on stilts, they had it covered.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to March’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. On March 10, 2011, the “experts” in Japan thought that their seawalls were high enough and that their nuclear power plants could take whatever nature threw at them. Just like the citizens of Galveston found in September of 1900, the Japanese learned something on March 11th. They were wrong. We were wrong. We still don’t know what we don’t know.

The other thing that struck me was that Larson is a master at letting the story build….and build….and build and he writes in such an approachable tone that I can’t put him down. At one point, I was clenching the book so tightly that my knuckles were white. Silly, when you think about it, but that makes it memorable. It also makes me question my sanity at times because I find myself thinking that with the way he writes, it is like Larson traveled back in time to get the real story. It’s like he was there..freaky.

Word of warning, the beginning of Isaac’s Storm lagged a bit for me. It outlines the history of the weather service bureau and past hurricanes and while it is important to the story, it just didn’t grab me. So stick with it and you shall be rewarded.

I’ll leave you with a passage that broke my heart..

“For other fathers in homes nor far from his the afternoon was playing out in rather different fashion. Suddenly the prospect of watching their children die became very real.

Whom do you save? Did you seek to save one child, or try to save all, at the risk of ultimately of saving none? Did you save a daughter or a son? The youngest or your firstborn? Did you save that sun-kissed child who gave you delight every morning, or the benighted adolescent who made your day a torment-save him, because of piece of you screamed to save the sweet one?

And if you saved none, what then?

How did you go on?”

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (August 24, 1999)
  • ISBN-10: 9780609602331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609602331