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Waterproof A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by…
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Waterproof A Novel of the Johnstown Flood (2012)

by Judith Redline Coopey

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From the book jacket: Fifty years after an earthen dam broke and sent a thirty foot wall of raging destruction down on the city of Johnstown, PA, Pamela McRae looks back on the tragedy with new perspective.

I may be a bit biased on this one because 1) it's relatively local 2) I met the author 3) she's a Central PA native (born in Altoona; raised near Williamsburg; Penn State grad). Add in the fact that there's a major disaster involved, and I have to love it.

This book is the story of Pamela: Pamela as an older woman, living a modest but comfortable existence in 1939 and looking back at her life; and young Pamela at and shortly after the time of the great Johnstown Flood of 1889, as she is remembered by her older self. The segments which are Pamela in 1939 are written in first person present tense; the portions which are her memories are written in first person past tense. The writing is conversational in tone. The narrative pulled me in -- the author was very good at working in teasers which made me want to read on. On one level, it's a simple story about common people who have been through a terrible ordeal. On another level, it's a study in how different people respond to tragedy and disaster, and how difficult circumstances can kill the spirit of some, while nurturing growth in others. While some gave in to despair and/or rage following the flood, Pam didn't want to go there; she was determined to make herself waterproof.

The author said she did a lot of historical research, as she does NOT like historical fiction that plays fast and loose with the facts; I could see evidence of that research in details about Johnstown of the times described in the book.

The ending is tied up a little too neatly for my cynical nature, but that was OK, too.

The book is self-published, but the quality is as good as many books I've seen from major publishers lately. The author said she availed herself of professional help in proofreading and design, and it shows. A library patron complained of some typos in our library copy, but I noticed only a couple of very minor errors in my own copy -- and I'm generally pretty fussy about those things. ( )
1 vote tymfos | Jun 1, 2012 |
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This book is dedicated to the memory of my father, Kenneth Redline who servied his country well: soldier, ball player, brick layer, author, reader, philospher, and student of history and loyal son of Pennsylvania.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0983891826, Paperback)

" Fifty years after an earthen dam collapsed sending a thirty foot wall of raging destruction down on the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Pamela McRae looks back on the tragedy. The flood wiped out Pam's fondest hopes, taking the lives of her fiancé and her brother, the sanity of her mother, and, soon after, her father. Pam is left alone to cope with poverty, loneliness, and despair. The arrival of Katya, a poor Hungarian girl running away from an arranged marriage, gives Pam the chance she needs to re-enter the world. Katya can care for her mother, and Pam can go to work for the Johnstown Clarion as a society reporter. Then Davy Hughes, Pam's dead fiancé, reappears and, instead of being the answer to her prayers, further complicates her life. Someone is seeking revenge on the owners of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, the Pittsburgh millionaires who owned the failed dam, and Pam thinks Davy might have something to do with it. Waterproof, set in Johnstown two years after the flood, examines how people react to tragedy. Some recover from physical injury only to succumb to the psychological affects; some run away; some rise to the challenge and become better people; some seek revenge. For the people of Johnstown, survivors of the flood, it became the measure of their character. Some rose to the challenge while others never got over it, just as many survive, but never really recover from so many of life s calamities. "

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:28 -0400)

After rebuilding a life devastated by the Johnstown Flood, Pamela McRae must deal with the return of the fiance who abandoned her, and the possibility that he is the individual who is seeking vengeance on the owners of the failed dam.

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