I finished reading three books last month. Each of them gave me a lot to think about, and I hope my comments will prompt you to read one of them.
I had so much I wanted to write about two of the books, that I thought everyone would get tired reading about them; therefore, I’ll save one of them for next week’s blog post.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella, by Fredrik Backman
Most people will think of A Man Called Ove, when they hear the name Fredrik Backman. The novella by him that I read in March is quite different from that full-length novel.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer takes you on a journey with a boy and his grandfather. The grandfather has dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, and he knows he’s losing his memories. The older man and the boy have an appreciation of math in common. They go out in a boat for fun and the boy knows his grandfather is depending on him to figure out how to get them home.
The book shows how memories get passed down from generation to generation and a boy becomes a man with children of his own. When the book ends, you’re not sure whose mind you’re in because the memories of one generation become the stories of the next generation, and so on.
Something I took away from this novella is the importance of sharing one’s memories with the people close to them and the importance of those people close to them taking the time to listen and remember. The day will come when you’ll wish you had paid attention and asked questions.
Most of us have been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease within our families and circle of friends. It’s a sad disease with no known cure. It’s a disease that ravages the caregivers as much as it does the person who actually has the disease.
The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano that Darkened the World and Changed History, by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman
Volcanoes have always fascinated me, so this book was “right down my alley.” I first heard about 1816 being called “the year without a summer” about 20 years ago. The premise of it stuck with me all these years, so I was pleased to discover William and Nicholas Klingaman’s book at the public library a few weeks ago.
On April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora – thought to be an extinct volcano — on the island of Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago erupted. The blast was heard more than 800 miles away on Java. It’s subsequent eruption on April 10 was even more violent.
That second eruption was heard on Sumatra, which is more than 1,000 miles from Mount Tambora. The top 3,000 feet of the volcano was blown off, leaving a three-mile-wide crater one-half mile deep. It is thought that ash rose 25 miles high where the wind spread it in all directions. A tsunami reached eastern Java around midnight and earth tremors were felt there 18 hours after the eruption.
It is thought that Mount Tambora was the largest volcanic eruption in the last 2,000 years. Volcanoes are measured by the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), which works much like the Richter Scale we’re all familiar with for measuring earthquakes. Each step on the VEI equals 10 times the magnitude of the preceding step. Tambora gets a 7 on the VEI, making it 100 times stronger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
As one might suspect from the name of the book, the eruption of Mount Tambora affected weather worldwide, although contemporary documentation is more readily available from North America and Europe than other continents.
Not only were record snowfalls reported in Europe, but the snow was red and yellow. Imagine how unsettling that was! Brilliant red, purple, and orange sunsets were much written about in London.
Quoting from the book: “In fact, scientists have taken advantage of this effect by using the amount of red in contemporary paintings of sunsets to estimate the intensity of volcanic eruptions. Several Greek scientists, led by C.S. Zerefos, digitally measured the amount of red – relative to the other primary colors – in more than 550 samples of landscape art by 181 artists from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries to produce estimates of the amount of volcanic ash in the air at various times. Paintings from the years following the Tambora eruption used the most red paint; those after Krakatoa came in a close second.” (Krakatoa in Indonesia erupted in 1883.)
I’ll share a few specific examples from the book to illustrate how the weather was affected by Tambora.
May 1816: 6 inches of snow in parts of New York; frost in Tennessee and Richmond, VA. Snow in Vermont in late May.
June 6-9, 1816: Snow in Quebec, Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts; Arctic air plunged into the Carolinas. Snow in Lancashire in England. Erratic temperatures in New England, with snow one week, 100 degrees F. the next, and frost the following week.
July 6, 1816: Snow in Montreal. Frost from Maine to Virginia on July 8.
August 29, 1816: Heavy frost in South Carolina. A man in Danville, North Carolina wrote that his fields were white with frost and he had recently visited Mecklenburg County, NC and the cold and drought had left fields from there to the Savannah River bare.
Feb. 14, 1817: It was 30 degrees F. below zero at Dartmouth College and ice was 25 inches thick on the Potomac River at Alexandria, Virginia.
As one would expect, crops failed in Canada, the United States, and throughout Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people starved to death in Europe. Prices for food and grain for human and livestock consumption skyrocketed.
Various theories arose as people tried to figure out the cause of the cold weather. Self-appointed prophets predicted that the world would end on July 18, 1816.
Many families moved from New England to Ohio and Indiana in hopes of better farming conditions. Joseph Smith, father of Joseph Smith, Jr. who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, moved his family from Vermont to Palmyra, New York. It was there that Joseph Smith, Jr. had his visions. An interesting aside to the story is that after referencing the Messrs. Klingaman’s book in passing in my blog post two or three weeks ago, I was contacted by a descendant of Mr. Smith who inquired if the Smiths were mentioned in the book. Indeed, they are, on pages 119 and again in some detail on page 280.
In addition to the way global weather was affected by the eruption of Mount Tambora, the thing that really caught my attention was how the eruption was heard hundreds of miles away. In the Epilogue, Messrs. Klingaman say that when Krakatoa erupted in 1883, the explosion was heard in Perth in southwest Australia, which is more than 2,200 miles away!
By the way, Tambora is still active. It has erupted several times since 1815 – and as recently as 1967.
I wish I’d been told about Mount Tambora in history class.
Since my last blog post
I’ve been reading and also watching a lot of basketball. The North Carolina State University women’s basketball team gave the University of Connecticut a run for their money on Monday night in a game that went into double overtime. UCONN came out of top in the end and advanced to the “Final Four.”
And only in a North Carolinian’s dreams could the men’s “Final Four” pit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill against Duke University. That much-anticipated game was played on Saturday night. It was a typical UNC-Duke game, and it was a shame that one of the teams had to lose.
If you aren’t a college basketball fan, please overlook my going on and on about this, but I’m a North Carolinian and we take our college basketball very seriously.
I continue to work my way through Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash as I tweak the plot for The Heirloom.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. At the recommendation of author A.J. Mayhew, I’m reading Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman, and at the recommendation of Mr. Zuckerman, I’m reading The Man from St. Petersburg, by Ken Follett.
Make time to enjoy a hobby.
Don’t forget the people of Ukraine.