The Worst Hard Time
The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
By Timothy Egan
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618346974, 352pp.)
Publication Date: December 2005
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"The Worst Hard Time is an epic story of blind hope and endurance almost beyond belief; it is also, as Tim Egan has told it, a riveting tale of bumptious charlatans, conmen, and tricksters, environmental arrogance and hubris, political chicanery, and a ruinous ignorance of nature's ways. Egan has reached across the generations and brought us the people who played out the drama in this devastated land, and uses their voices to tell the story as well as it could ever be told." Marq de Villiers, author of Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prizewinning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survivedthose who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the graveEgan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
As only great history can, Egan's book captures the very voice of the times: its grit, pathos, and abiding courage. Combining the human drama of Isaac's Storm with the sweep of The American People in the Great Depression, The Worst Hard Time is a lasting and important work of American history.
Timothy Egan is a national enterprise reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of four books and the recipient of several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
As one who, as a young reporter, survived and reported on the great Dust Bowl disaster, I recommend this book as a dramatic, exciting, and accurate account of that incredible and deadly phenomenon. This is can’t-put-it-down history.” Walter Cronkite
"The Worst Hard Time is wonderful: ribbed like surf, and battering us with a national epic that ranks second only to the Revolution and the Civil War. Egan knows this and convincingly claims recognition for his subjectas we as a country finally accomplished, first with Lewis and Clark, and then for 'the greatest generation,' many of whose members of course were also survivors of the hardships of the Great Depression. This is a banner, heartfelt but informative book, full of energy, research, and compassion." Edward Hoagland, author of Compass Points: How I Lived
"Here's a terrific true storywho could put it down? Egan humanizes Dust Bowl history by telling the vivid stories of the families who stayed behind. One loves the people and admires Egan's vigor and sympathy." Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
"The American West got lucky when Tim Egan focused his acute powers of observation on its past and present. Egan's remarkable combination of clear analysis and warm empathy anchors his portrait of the women and men who held on to their placesand held on to their soulsthrough the nearly unimaginable miseries of the Dust Bowl. This book provides the finest mental exercise for people wanting to deepen, broaden, and strengthen their thinking about the relationship of human beings to this earth." Patricia N. Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
TIMOTHY EGAN is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and the author of six books, most recently The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Washington State Book Award. His previous books include The Worst Hard Time, which won a National Book Award and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice. He is an online op-ed columnist for the New York Times, writing his "Opinionator" feature once a week.He is a third-generation Westerner and lives in Seattle.
[A] fierce, humane account of the dreams and extremes that crashed head on during the nearly decade-long calamity of the Dust Bowl. The New York Times
[A] vivid and gritty piece of forgotten history.
"The Worst Hard Time" provides a sobering, gripping account of a disaster whose wounds are still not fully healed today.
The Worst Hard Time is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction.
The Baltimore Sun
Egan has admirably captured a part of our American experience that should not be forgotten.
The San Francisco Chronicle
Egan is a passionate and accomplished writer...Read this for history, not inspiration or entertainment.
The Denver Post
Egan's account of the Dust Bowl era is a final, terrible rebuke to the policies of America's dying days of frontier expansion.
The Seattle Times
THE WORST HARD TIME is a flat-out masterpiece of historical reportage.