THE JOHNSTOWN GIRLS
Also available in trade paper (2017)
Ellen Emerson may be the last living survivor of the Johnstown flood. She was only four years old on May 31, 1889, when twenty million tons of water decimated her hometown of Johnstown, PA. Thousands perished in what was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history at the time. The flood not only changed the course of history, but also the individual lives of those who survived it.
A century later, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters Ben and Nina set out to interview one hundred and four year-old Ellen for Ben's feature article on the flood. When asked the secret to her longevity, Ellen simply attributes it to "restlessness." As we see, that restlessness is fueled by Ellen's innate belief that her twin sister Mary, who went missing in the flood, is somehow still alive. Her story intrigues Ben, but haunts Nina, who is determined to help Ellen find her missing half.
Author Kathleen George masterfully blends a factual history of the Johnstown flood into her heartrending tale of twin sisters who have never known the truth about that fateful day in 1889—a day that would send their lives hurtling down different paths. The Johnstown Girls is a remarkable story of perseverance, hard work, and never giving up hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It's also a tribute to the determination and indomitable spirit of the people of Johnstown through one hundred years, three generations, and three different floods.
University of Pittsburgh Press, hardcover, August 2012, ISBN-13: 978-0822944317
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Praise"George offers complex and rewarding storytelling that pays tribute to not only the magnitude of the disastrous flood but also the resilience of Johnstown and its citizens."
—Publishers Weekly (read the full review)
"The Johnstown Flood is a huge story—the American people were aghast at the loss of life and the wholesale destruction of this industrial city. The personal stories of this epic tragedy were often overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of the event. Kathleen George succeeds wonderfully in portraying the ways in which a shattering event can rearrange the fate of individual lives. She knows and loves southwestern Pennsylvania and its people. As with her mysteries, The Johnstown Girls strongly evokes the people and way of life of the region."
"The interesting history informing Kathy George's The Johnstown Girls is woven into a moving novel whose characters are fully realized, whose scope is wide reaching, and whose story is compelling. Pittsburghers especially will love the local color of places like Kennywood and Homestead, and learning more about Johnstown, where so many Pittsburghers grew up. But this is a book for readers everywhere who like to learn history while in the certain hands of a wonderfully accomplished novelist."
"Kathleen George is a deft writer and prodigious researcher who expertly pushes the boundaries of the mystery genre. I can't wait for more superb novels to come."