The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time

The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

eBook - 2011
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"The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived - those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave - Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression."
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2011
ISBN: 9780547347776
Characteristics: 1 online resource (x, 340 p. :,ill., map.)


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Feb 28, 2018

Don't get the audio.

First, I think you need photos to get a visual of the grasses [before] and how flat and barren the land is, and then of course a visual on the dust storms and carnage. Unsure of the quality of photos in the book version. Therefore, I highly suggest to watch the Ken Burns Dust Bowl mini series [which also features the author].

Secondly, huge does one pronounce Boise? Boy-zee as in Idaho. Boys as in the Burns miniseries...and the author is saying it this way. Boy-zay says the reader.

I was curious so I called their Chamber of Commerce...their phone number has been disconnected. Called the local paper...NO one answers. Finally called a motel. It's Boys. So...the reader doesn't know how to pronounce the main town in the book? Really?

Thirdly, learning about this man made event sure is a downer for both the land and these families trying to survive both financially and physically. I isn't always pleasant, which leads to...

Lastly, when I was 4.5 hours in and pretty much had my fill, I told my hubby that there’s still 7.5 hours left! What in the world is he going to write about? I would have preferred if it was edited down to 6 hours (like the wonderful non fiction books of Steve Sheinkin).

JCLJoyceM Jan 26, 2018

Life in the central U.S. was nasty during the Dust Bowl, including western Kansas. It’s hard to imagine living in these conditions.
Wind pushed fine dust through closed windows. People hung damp sheets to try to control the dust coming in and this just made for muddy sheets. Ceilings collapsed because so much dirt blew in and settled on them. People climbed out windows because sand dunes obscured their doorways. People were canning and eating tumbleweeds because nothing else was growing. These were desperate times.

Sep 06, 2017

This is not a particularly well written book, but worth reading nonetheless in order to understand what life was like for farmers affected by the drought in the prairies during the Great Depression. See Doris Waggoner's excellent comment below for more details.

HCL_staff_reviews Dec 01, 2016

This astonishing book recounts the saga of the southern Great Plains during the Depression. The Plains ecosystem gradually had become irreparably damaged from commercial buffalo killing, large-scale cattle ranching and 'sod-busting' wheat farming practices, all of which caused erosion. When severe drought began in 1931, the result was a natural disaster; deep cracks formed in the earth's crust and huge storms darkened the skies as far as New York City; agriculture ceased. Egan focuses on several families and locales to illustrate the courage and luck that was required to survive the Dust Bowl. — Trudi C., Southdale Library

AL_LESLEY Nov 22, 2016

Not too heavy and thus a moving history of the dust bowl. I would use this as an introduction before more in depth reading.

Jun 17, 2016

My mother's parents homesteaded in 1907-1910 in SD, on marginal land in the Northern Plains. My mother felt that, inadvertently, her family's hard work contributed to the Dust Bowl. Reading Egan's book, I agree. One of the book's strengths is that he stresses the stories of individuals and families. Almost all migrated to the Southern Plains, and then, no matter what disaster befell them, chose to stay. Sometimes I wanted to shake them and tell them to leave, because not only were they losing their livelihoods, their very lives were at stake. Yet, Egan shows how they retained their dignity as much as did those, like Steinbeck's fictional Joads, who left. The book could have used tighter editing, but then it would have lost some of the sense of the kind of life these people lived--incessant dust storms, ongoing droughts, constant fear for the health of one's children. As I finished it, I mentioned the Dust Bowl to a bright 30 year old friend, who had no idea what I was talking about. That lack of understanding of ecological issues makes this a very important book.

Mar 11, 2016

Fascinating and still relevant discussion of environmental policy competing with economic policy

Nov 25, 2015

Mixed feelings about this & prefer the PBS series on the subject. Egan is a gifted author.

lbarkema Jul 01, 2015

Interesting topic that I realized I knew very little about, but it was a bit dry at times and that is why I easily abandoned it to read other books multiple times, and it took me 3 months to finish. Non-fiction readers will definitely enjoy this, but fiction readers who do not normally foray into non-fiction, just remember that it won't be a fast read, but it's written well and you will learn a lot.

sidnawkid Apr 07, 2015

Fascinating information about an unfortunate and tragic era in American history. Makes history come alive through details of the lives of several dust bowl families. Very compelling reading; tough to put down.

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