The Tilted World is a historical novel about the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi River
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Anne Finnelly
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2013, 300 pages
The #ReadHarder challenge of a book about a natural disaster didn't sound interesting to me. But, I found this book about the 1927 disastrous flooding of the Mississippi River which would fit the bill. Still not particularly interested. BUT - this book was surprisingly readable and much better than I expected. Probably because it wasn't all about the flood, though that was certainly an overriding theme of the story.
The Author's Note at the beginning gave some facts and figures about the Mississippi flood to set the stage. A thousand miles of levees were in danger of collapsing and guards were deployed all along the river to prevent sabotage and help reinforce the levees. When a section of levee broke after months of excessive rain, "a wall of water 100 feet high and with twice the force of Niagara Falls scooped out the Delta. It flattened almost a million homes, drowning 27,000 square miles in up to 30 feet of water, and the water remained for four months." Yikes!
I thoroughly enjoyed the story on top of the flood story - Dixie Clay, a bootlegger in a bad marriage to Jesse, a slimy but charming guy; Ingersoll, a revenuer whose job it is to arrest her but he finds himself attracted instead; Ham, the revenuer partner with a big personality.
Each of these characters are interesting, well defined, and move the story right along. Each back story is intriguing in its own way. There's a light love story that is handled well; there's an orphan baby that binds Ingersoll to Dixie Clay in an unexpected way. All these components work to craft an entertaining and well written story.
"How big was the area that was drowned? About the size of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Of course, if it had been those states, we'd have had help right quick. Supplies. Money. ... But it was Delta dirt, the richest dirt in the nation, though under boot soles of the poorest folk."
The culmination of the book is the flood. It explodes into the story, taking center stage and bringing all the characters crashing together. Who survives and how? I'm actually happy to be able to recommend this book! Once again I'm reminded that you can't always tell a good story by the title or cover of the book. And without the #ReadHarder challenge, I never would have even looked.......
Have you been surprised by a book you didn't expect to like? Do you have a method to choose a book outside your usual reading habits? Share your thoughts in the comments.
photo via Miguel Ugalde, freeimages