Tornado Warning by Tamara Hart Heiner
The true story about seven ordinary women and one extraordinary event... Summer is coming, and the residents in Joplin, Missouri anticipate the rush of freedom and activities that will follow: graduation, summer classes, vacations, overflowing gardens, family time, and plenty of photo opportunities. What they don’t anticipate is the mile-wide tornado that will devastate the town on May 22, 2011 in the middle of dinner preparations, visits to friends and family, and graduation ceremonies. The tornado kills over a hundred in the deadliest tornado disaster in a century and leaves thousands more homeless. In the face of this tragedy, seven women must gather their courage and hold their families together. Each will make different choices to protect loved ones and strangers and recover from the winds of destruction.
So, I thought this book would require a box of tissues, but I didn't end up crying. Not because the content isn't sad or heart tugging, or graphic, or worthy of it. I just didn't. I think because I knew I was going to read about a life-changing tragedy my brain disconnected from my emotions as a defense mechanism or something. It certainly had nothing to do with the story telling.
It's been quite a while since I've reviewed a non-fiction book. I think the last one was Lost in Austen. A very different subject than the tornado that hit Joplin, MO.
I found it very helpful to read the two sections at the beginning. They describe how tornadoes work/are formed and how the timeline of the Joplin tornado played out. You may be tempted to skip them thinking, 'I don't need to know that stuff to read the story'. Maybe not, but I'd advise you to read them. They really helped me understand what happened and why people there reacted the ways they did.
The 'story' part follows about seven families from before the tornado to after. I had a hard time keeping the families straight, and had to keep referring to the description of family page. Thanks for including that Ms. Heiner or I would've been very lost! But, I think my difficulties had more to do with my brain than the storytelling. These events were given in sequence through interviews with Ms. Heiner so they are all first hand accounts of what happened and then she used her beautiful ability with word craft to put them on the page and bring them larger than life into your imagination.
There is also a section at the end that tells you how to get prepared for a tornado and what to do in various scenarios if one should hit where you live. You may be tempted to skip this part too. But, keep this in mind, wherever you live, a natural disaster can occur. Tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, wild fires, earthquakes, etc. No one is immune. So, get your 72 hour kit and food storage together, along with all your important docs so you'll be ready. Lots of great info back there.
One thing that stood out about the book (SPOILER HERE) none of the families represented lost family members. All are intact at the end of the tornado. I inquired of Ms. Heiner why there was such an obvious imbalance in the stories represented as certainly there were many families who weren't so fortunate. Her response was along the lines of it was too painful to share and they didn't want to risk exploitation. I can appreciate both.
Worth a read? Yes. It will wake you up, make you appreciate all you have, and how easily and quickly it can be taken from you. Now go hug your loved ones!