Title: A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche
Author: Jennifer Woodlief
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
On the morning of March 31, 1982, the snow had already been falling at a record rate for four days at Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe, California. For the vacationers and employees at the resort, this day would change their lives forever.
The unprecedented avalanche that day at Alpine Meadows was a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe. Much like the nor’easter that bedeviled the fishermen in Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, an unforeseeable confluence of natural events created the conditions for an unimaginable disaster — and, in one woman’s case, an astonishing ordeal of survival.
A Wall of White is a well-crafted and gripping tale of an avalanche that occurred in 1982 at Alpine Meadows, a ski area near Lake Tahoe. The fact that it is a true story increases the story’s compelling nature. The blizzard that preceded this avalanche created a “perfect storm” of sorts; all the conditions put together led to the shocking events that occur in this book.
The way that Woodlief chose to tell A Wall of White is very effective. Instead of choosing between a birds-eye view of the tragedy with cold, hard facts about the avalanche and a more personal story with details about the people involved, Woodlief took a middle road and incorporated both of these techniques. As a result A Wall of White is a very personal book, but that doesn’t get in the way of learning about avalanches in general.
Woodlief does her best to put a human face on the tragedy at Alpine Meadows in A Wall of White. As a result, the reader is introduced to each of the personalities that play a role in the story. Sometimes the meeting is all too brief, but Woodlief does her best to make sure that both the heroes and victims of the Alpine Meadows avalanche get at least a small place in the spotlight. Sometimes these asides can be frustrating, as the reader wants to get back to the events of the day of the avalanche, but Woodlief gives each of these people their due. It is a fitting tribute.
If you don’t know much about avalanches, you will learn a lot after reading A Wall of White. Woodlief presents the information well, taking time to explain the nature of avalanches and why exactly they are so deadly. She keeps it very interesting while still teaching the reader.
There is never a dull moment in A Wall of White; Woodlief crafted this book extremely well. She also obviously did a lot of research – there is a lot of information jam packed into this relatively slender read. If you are interested in the subject matter, or enjoy non-fiction in general, definitely pick this book up. If you don’t read much non-fiction, I still recommend this book. The gripping story and personal nature of A Wall of White makes it a great read.
Thank you to Kate at Folio Literary Management for sending me this book to review!