Author: Henry Fountain
Summary: Lots of story threads were sometimes hard to follow, but once things came together, this was a run, fascinating read.
“On March 27, 1964, at 5:36 p.m., the biggest earthquake ever recorded in North America–and the second biggest ever in the world, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale–struck Alaska, devastating coastal towns and villages and killing more than 130 people in what was then a relatively sparsely populated region.” (source) In addition to wreaking havoc in the lives of inhabitants, this enormous earthquake provided geologists with a novel research opportunity. If they could figure out why it occurred, they could learn more about the way the earth moves and potentially predict future quakes.
Between the science and the many different people in several different communities, there were a lot of threads to this story. At times, I wasn’t sure how they were going to connect, had trouble keeping track of all the characters, or just felt a little lost. After we got to the earthquake, that got better. Since the author was clearly trying to give an overview of the quake, I didn’t feel like I had to keep track of individuals as much. I was also incredibly impressed by the level of detail the author was able to provide about the experiences of individual people during the earthquake. It made for some fun, immersive reading.
The science was generally explained well. I didn’t know much about the science before, but was able to follow along pretty easily. In a few cases, I think a figure would have helped a lot though! I also thought the author did a good job of sharing some of the history of the indigenous peoples in the area. There were a lot of fascinating parts to this story. Although they didn’t always feel cohesive, they still made for an enjoyable and interesting read.