Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: The Windows of Heaven

Death by drowning contains it's own special horrors, but the death of an entire city, submerged under a fifteen foot storm surge is beyond description.
Well, almost.
Ron Rozelle manages to take you to Galveston, and place you in the middle of her busy streets, dangerous seaport wharehouses, and elegant Victorian mansions during the late summer of 1900. The many stories you will encounter are interesting enough to hold your attention, but since they are unified by one world changing event- the Great Storm of 1900- each one takes on a special significance, as death reaps it's bitter harvest across the island and life struggles for higher ground.
If you live on the Gulf Coast of Texas, then the storm is part of your history and heritage. Those who live outside the region have become familiar with the tale through such non-fiction books as Issac's Storm. Even though this tale is a fictional account, Mr. Rozelle has included enough real history in his pages to give a sense of depth to his characters and stories, most of which are interwoven from different points of view. This style allows you to deeply identify with each of the main characters, but it did leave me wanting to shout "get on with it!" during some of the middle chapters as stories overlapped.
By the end, I felt that I had my own personal window into the events of that tragic day, and I mourn for the loss of life that Mr. Rozelle clearly illustrates with his prose. The people of the island become so real to you that the next time the skies darken and thunder rattles your windows, you will be haunted by their memory.
This is a well researched story, and if you are going to visit Galveston, I reccomend picking up this book before you make the journey. Better than any travelouge, this novel will give you a sense of the history and geography of the island, and if you find someone crying as they stand on an umarked stretch of sand near the eastern shore - you'll know why.

..And you'll likely join them.