17 May 2013

Review: Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood

Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood

Published: 5 March 2013 by Europa Editions

Pages: 272 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Own library


March 18, 1925. The day begins as any other rainy, spring day in the small settlement of Marah, Illinois. But the town lies directly in the path of the worst tornado in US history, which will descend without warning midday and leave the community in ruins. By nightfall, hundreds will be homeless and hundreds more will lie in the streets, dead or grievously injured. Only one man, Paul Graves, will still have everything he started the day with –– his family, his home, and his business, all miraculously intact.

Based on the historic Tri-State tornado, Falling to Earth follows Paul Graves and his young family in the year after the storm as they struggle to comprehend their own fate and that of their devastated town, as they watch Marah resurrect itself from the ruins, and as they miscalculate the growing resentment and hostility around them with tragic results.

My Thoughts

I bought this book primarily because of it's plot - a natural disaster in the 1920s is a combination of two kinds of books I love to read so it was logical that I wanted to read it. And although it wasn't exactly what I expected, I was hooked from the first page.

The characters are typical small-town folk - Paul runs the local lumberyard, his wife and mother keep house and his three young children attend the local school.  The family have worked hard all their lives, and are just starting to enjoy the fruits of their labours when the tornado hits and their lives change immediately.

My one and only small issue with the whole book was the characterisation of Paul's wife, Mae.   In the first part of the book I had trouble telling her apart from Paul's mother Lavinia, although to be fair it may have actually been intentional to show the closeness of their relationship, however it did leave me a little confused on a handful of occasions.

If you're looking for an action-packed natural disaster thriller, this is probably not the book for you.  The opener is a real blinder and I couldn't look away, but it wasn't the action and the devastation that had me hooked - it was the sadness, shock and confusion of the townspeople.

In the aftermath, the emotions of the characters were so pitch-perfect it was hard to believe it was fiction - every action and reaction felt so very realistic I could even imagine myself acting in the same way as many of the townspeople - jealousy, resentment and guilt were so palpable that I ended up feeling quite raw from all the emotions that were being so subtly revealed.

Falling to Earth is an intense book that focuses far more on the psychological reactions of the characters than I initially expected, and I have to say again just how impressed I was that Ms. Southwood managed to capture so many emotions and reactions so intensely without being overly-dramatic.  


  1. This is one I initially saw on your blog a few weeks back. I knew then it was one I'd like to read. Sadly since then I have yet to actually start the book (damn TBR). Your review gives me hope that I will love it though once I do. Great review!

    Kristin@Blood,Sweat and Books

  2. Wow...now I am really debating this one..though I have been trying to avoid the super emotional reads lately I am still so drawn to them!

  3. Wow, well, I would never have heard of this, but if you can't recommend it enough, I am sold.



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