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The Children's Blizzard  By  cover art

The Children's Blizzard

By: Melanie Benjamin
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
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Publisher's summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Aviator's Wife comes a story of courage on the prairie, inspired by the devastating storm that struck the Great Plains in 1888, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders, especially schoolchildren.

“A nail-biter ... poignant, powerful, perfect.” (Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network)

The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats - leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. 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 16 were suddenly faced with life-and-death decisions: Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers - one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured Northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there - or whose land it originally was.

At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today - because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

©2021 Melanie Benjamin (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“In this atmospheric novel, as relentlessly paced as a thriller, you experience the encroaching storm from many perspectives and, in the process, understand something important about the tenacity of the human spirit.” (Christina Baker Kline, author of The Exiles)

“Melanie Benjamin reminds us that immigrant stories are at the heart of American history. She weaves a moving and uplifting tale of courage, family, and sacrifice.” (Jean Kwok, author of Searching for Sylvie Lee)

“Melanie Benjamin never fails to create compelling, unforgettable characters and place them against the backdrop of startling history.” (Lisa Wingate, author of The Book of Lost Friends)