“A beautiful, powerful recounting of the 9.2 earthquake that hit Alaska in 1964: It was the largest ever in North America, lasting five full minutes and causing a tsunami.”
Featured in LA Times’ Best Non-Fiction Books of 2017.
Henry has written a visionary tale of the most significant earthquake ever recorded in North America—and the second biggest ever in the world. Measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale, it struck Alaska, destructing villages and coastal towns killing more than 130 people which then a relatively less populated region.
The story is built around geologist George Plafker, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Department. Another main character in this book is Kris Madsen, the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Chenega which is a village that was hard hit by the earthquake. He showcases the scientific facts in a way that brings a very human aspect to the events preceding and following this powerful and revealing episode of the ever-shifting movement of our earth.
The Henry tells stories of destruction and survival. Most of the deaths were caused by the tsunami resulting from the quake (for some reason the author refers to tsunamis as ‘tidal waves’ throughout this book–perhaps because that’s what they were called back in 1964.)
In a compelling story about the almost unbelievable harsh act of nature, New York Times journalist Henry Fountain, in his first trade book, re-creates the lives of the villagers and townspeople living in Anchorage, Chenega and Valdez. He narrates the sheer beauty of the geology of the region, with its towering peaks and 20-mile-long glaciers and reveals the impact of the earthquake on the towns, the buildings and the lives of the residents.