In vivid fashion, Egan reports on the grit, the drifts, and the figures bent against the gusts. All the elements of the iconic dust bowl photographs come together in the author’s evocative portrait of those who first prospered and then suffered during the 1930s drought.
Illuminating these hidden lives serves to strengthen the larger story of the Dust Bowl. Egan nimbly moves his lens between macro and micro, balancing hard data and national conditions with portraits of people you come to care about ... Occasionally Egan's writing edges toward the theatrical, but more often than not his style swells to fit the magnitude of monster storms and scales down to the individual families trapped in mind-numbing poverty ... Egan has gone beyond statistics to reach the heart of this tragedy. The Worst Hard Time provides a sobering, gripping account of a disaster whose wounds are still not fully healed today.
The story of the Dust Bowl is inherently dramatic, and Egan, a national correspondent for The New York Times, vividly brings both his witnesses and the weather to life. The book is, for the most part, thrilling. But Egan trips himself up with redundant outrage and with iterations of superlatives ... The author takes far too many stabs at explaining why anyone opted to stay in the Dust Bowl, instead of following the Joads, and he slips from inventive, wonder-filled descriptions of the landscape to pure bluster.
Although the story can be repetitive on the surface, several compelling figures anchor Egan's readable tale ... a reminder that the disasters of our age, while awesome in scale, still have competition from the breathtaking destruction in our past. And its focus on the people who stuck it out, either through tenacity or grim resignation, illuminates those in our own time who cling to their patches of earth, in spite of the wind or water trying to sweep them away.
Throughout his book, Egan focuses on the land and the people, providing photographs and just enough statistics such that the reader can understand the devastation that they endured ... Egan provides plenty to think about in his passionate but reasoned account of the Dust Bowl days. I highly recommend this fascinating but sad tale about the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States, and hope that it will serve as a stern warning about the very real consequences of human ignorance, greed and hubris.
... a vivid and gritty piece of forgotten history ... Egan re-creates that period by weaving together the stories told by a half-dozen families. That is both the book's strength and weakness. It does justice to the range of suffering, but it's harder to follow than a novel that would focus on one family ... As Egan's extensive source notes make clear, pieces of the story have been told before, although never as comprehensively or as well. It's a great read about a horrible time, filled with lessons still worth learning.
Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account ... the plains weren't suited to farming, and plowing up the grass to plant wheat, along with a confluence of economic disaster resulted in an ecological and human catastrophe that Egan details with stunning specificity. He grounds his tale in portraits of the people who settled the plains ... Egan's interviews with survivors produce tales of courage and suffering ... With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan's powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers' minds.