This is an historical novel based on the great hurricane of 1900 that sent Galveston to its knees. Did you know that at that time, Galveston was quite wealthy, mostly due to the cotton industry? The storm totally destroyed the island. It is estimated that between 6,000 and 12,000 people died. It is considered the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the US. Something like 85 people died when the storm surge overpowered a train trying to evacuate residents.
At the time, Galveston had about 37,000 population, so if the figure of 12,000 dead is anywhere near correct, that is a huge percentage. There were so many dead, that fearing the spread of disease, the survivors piled bodies on carts for burial at sea, but the bodies washed back onto shore, so they began to burn them in mass funeral pyres.
So against this background, we have the story of several survivors (and the ghost of one non-survivor). There is John, a general workman who helped out at the orphanage. When the storm was approaching, he helped Sister Elizabeth get a number of the orphans up to the attic, and tied a newborn in a cloth sling and hung the sling from the sturdiest of the rafters, and then went home to secure his own place. When the storm hit, he was washed away, but managed to stay adrift on his front door! Sister Elizabeth and her small charges did not survive, but miraculously, the baby did. After the storm, as John was coming back to check on the orphanage, he came upon a woman still alive, her long hair caught in a tree which kept her from being swept away with her young son and husband. John cut her loose, and they continued on to check on the orphanage, where they discovered the baby still alive. They then went on their way to the convent for succor and to look for someone to act as wetnurse for the baby. They were joined by a teenage boy, who said his name was Sean. One of John’s drinking acquaintances, Dean, managed to survive, and these five characters form the core of the story, and are joined by a number of others whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways. It is a wonderful story where the storm itself is also a primary character.
The story is told in simple sentences, almost childlike, with each character (except the baby) telling their story. Even the ghost of Sister Elizabeth has her turn.
All in all, a compelling read, and the ending, although not tying ALL the ends together, leaving room for sequels, I would imagine, is satisfactory enough.