Northeaster: A Story of Courage and Survival in the Blizzard of 1952

Pegasus. Jan. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781639363414. $28.95. HIST
In 1952 for four days—February 16 to 19—a torrential blizzard immobilized most of New England. Temperatures fell well below zero, and snowdrifts piled 20 feet high. Three dozen people died that week, six from Pelletier’s home state of Maine. In the ragged seas off Cape Cod, 60-foot breakers and 80-mile-per-hour winds broke the backs of two tankers, the size of football fields, in half. The Coast Guard rescue of the crewmen made national headlines, memorialized in the movie The Finest Hours. But the news on the ground was just as fraught. Pelletier (The Funeral Makers), with her well-honed novelist’s gifts, tells that story exceptionally well, building it out of the narratives of several Mainers and how they survived…or didn’t. One spent 36 hours in a car buried beneath a snowdrift before being found. Another had to be transported to a hospital on a toboggan to give birth. Four didn’t make it through the storm. The tales are, as she notes, footnotes in a larger drama. Human and real, their stories convey how chaos can disrupt the most ordered plans.
VERDICT This vividly told tale should attract history buffs and anyone who loves a good story.
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