Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains during the Depression, going from sod huts to new framed houses to basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out.
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.