After the Fog-Kathleen Shoop
In the mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous 1948 “killing smog,” headstrong nurse Rose Pavlesic tends to her family and neighbors. Controlling and demanding, she’s created a life that reflects everything she missed growing up as an orphan. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her loving husband, dutiful children, and large extended family. When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed.
I loved the portrait of a woman in crisis. Her internal crisis is echoed in the family crisis and environmental crisis around her. The prose clearly conveys the dreariness of the poisonous fog covering the mill town and the panic of the town. And even before the fog hits, the descriptions of Rose's work is great at conveying the appalling conditions that the wives of mill workers were living in-a subject too often ignored for the horror of the mills themselves (though Shoop doesn't ignore that either). The historical fiction aspect was truly fantastic-you're drawn into this mill town's crisis and for that I liked reading it.
However, I don't know if I can accept the degree to which Rose is a controlling mess. It sometimes made Rose seem too unreal. It was pretty inevitable that when her kids were not following the paths she wanted for them that she'd have to fall apart. It was just, the degree of drama was incredible. I couldn't believe in the coincidence of all the various dramas. Rose has secrets, finds out about her daughter's secrets, and her husband may be lying to her and her son is definitely hiding something and is hurt anyway, and there's an extended family living with her too AND the entire town is dying off? Oh my goodness, it made for some difficult reading at times because there was so little joy. And then the conclusion comes and there's suddenly joy? After the downbeat drama of the first 180 pages, the conclusion came off as a bit too pat.