I'm not a Johnstown girl -- but at heart, I am a Pennsylvania girl. Perhaps that is the number one reason why I loved Kathleen George's newest book, The Johnstown Girls. This novel follows the history of the Johnstown flood through the eyes of two reporters who are exploring the story of Ellen Emerson, a 103-year-old survivor of the flood who believes that her twin sister, who went missing during the flood, is somehow still alive.
While the main story line that weaves Ellen's current narrative with her memories of the past is a wonderful reflection about how we are all part of a bigger, more complex history, I found the two main characters, equally interesting. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters, Ben Bragdon and Nina Collins are investigating Ellen's story all the while engaging in a love affair that is leaving both characters exhausted and confused. Nina, especially, is a heartbreaking character, who does not want to get in the way of her lover's reportage of the story, yet feels a special bond with Ellen. When questioned by others in the story about her relationship with Ellen, she simply replies "We are both Johnstown Girls."
There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles about the Johnstown Flood, and a reader will probably not find anything new about the historic tragedy. And that's okay. Instead, anyone opening the pages of The Johnstown Girls will find a quiet testimony about those who find the strength to survive even through the worst of tragedies.
For more information, visit George's website where she talks a bit about the background of her newest book.
In many ways, I am more of a reader than a writer. This page will serve as a home for my informal reviews of what I've been reading.