The Children’s Blizzard is based on actual oral histories of survivors of the January 12, 1888 Dakota Territory blizzard. This was a book that I expected to sucker punch me with emotion. However, it did not grip me as emotionally as I expected.
The day was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats. At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions.
The focus of this book seemed to be the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both school teachers, and Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life. However, these three girls are not the only narrators and I believe the number of narrators takes away some of the impact of the girl’s stories and the events of that day. The potential impact of the other narrator’s stories was overshadowed by the story of the girls.
I had not heard of this event until coming across this book, so I did enjoy getting a look at a real-life historic event. But I do not feel like I really got to know the characters. They lacked depth, and that is why their stories did not pack the emotional punch I was expecting. I would have preferred fewer characters and more focus on those few, than many characters and knowing very little about them. I am glad I read this book, but it is likely not one I would pick up again.
NetGalley provided me with an advanced copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.
Rating: 3 stars
Title: The Children’s Blizzard
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Release Date: January 12, 2021