When the Mississippi Ran Backwards : Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes by Jay Feldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a non-fiction book with plenty of history and documentation, so is not a light read, but it IS a good read. The book was not at all what I expected, but I enjoyed it very much. From the title, I expected it to be more about the earthquakes of New Madrid. While growing up in St. Louis, I had both heard about the big quakes and felt a tremor or 2 from the fault since. I've grown up knowing that this area is seismologically active. But what was fascinating for me is all the history that was occurring at the time of the earthquakes. I learned a lot by reading this book. I really didn't know much about Tecumseh, but learned enough about him in this book that I'd like to learn more. I knew little or nothing about William Henry Harrison, who does not come off well at all in this book. Neither does Andrew Jackson, one of my favorite presidents. (My view of him was based on 'The President's Lady by Irving Stone, which I read in elementary school.) I knew nothing about Nicholas Roosevelt, the great-uncle of Teddy, who was instrumental in advancing steamboat travel. And I'd never heard of Thomas Jefferson's nephews, who gruesomely murdered one of their slaves. All of these play a role in this book.
The one thing that was disappointing to me was the author's treatment of the Iben Browning earthquake prediction of a New Madrid earthquake. The author painted the entire population as hysterical and unreasoning. It is true that the media made a huge deal of the prediction, just like they do about most anything else, and a few people I knew considered not sending their children to school and a few refused to drive across bridges, but the majority of area residents did not over-react and actually found some humor in the predictions. The area did become more aware of the possibility and the need to be prepared, but almost no one expected a major disaster to occur. The way the author misinterpreted this situation DOES make me wonder if his analysis of other parts of the book are accurate. In any event, I did enjoy the book very much!
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