Mooallem does a nice job of showing the domino of damage in cinematic slow motion — the crevasses opening in city streets, the land slinking and sliding, the indiscriminate collapse of homes of both the rich and the poor. And he’s astute in explaining the science ... He also brings to life a half-dozen or so ordinary people who acted in extraordinary ways ... this is a very strange book ... The main problem with This Is Chance! is that it fails to rise to the drama of the event. That would be fine if the character drama played out in a satisfying way. But here it comes up short as well. The book moves about in time, jumping ahead and then back again. It’s one thing to leap off the chronological ladder, quite another to leave the reader confused or — worse — caring less about people in the story ... All due respect to my fellow scribe, a bright and resourceful writer, but I wanted more of Genie Chance and less of her chronicler.
Mooallem makes brilliant use of two fortunate circumstances for telling this story ... You’ll feel like you’re there as Mr. Mooallem, a veteran journalist and author, describes the surreal sensations of reality coming apart around and underneath you ... Mr. Mooallem’s rich cast of characters ranges from top officials to ordinary citizens, but tying all their stories together is the plucky woman who assumed among her responsibilities that of preventing the breakdown of civil society ... Mooallem uses historical distance from this event to stop us in our tracks and give us a glimpse of what’s to come ... [a] powerful, heart-wrenching book, as much art as it is journalism.
Mooallem's second book...is an invigorating retelling of three days in March 1964 ... Mooallem writes about a special person here, a truly empathetic character who has the chance, then and now, to tell us more about ourselves. With finely wrought detail, thanks to Chance’s journal entries and broadcast recordings, we can experience the disaster through the same jarring, slowed-down lens that colored her life ... Not only is Mooallem an apt writer with this sort of gripping journalistic material...but moreover he has an eye for the gaps in our shared reality, for the gaps that emerge between daily life and history ... With deft touches to everything from chapter pacing and paragraph structure, he draws that fuzzy dislocation into the room with us as we read.