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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Biggest Group Ever Discusses Isaac's Storm

If you are in the photo above, I hope you don't mind being caught reading and put on the Internet! We took over most of the Barnes & Noble cafe for our discussion of Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson. We had lots of guests because Isaac's Storm is also the Round Rock Reads book for this year. As I understood it, the Round Rock Public Library advertised our meeting as one of their Round Rock Reads events. Library staff members, including the wonderful Director, Dale Ricklefs; library book club members; and unaffiliated readers all joined us for our discussion of Isaac's Storm last Monday! I counted at least 4 librarians among us. We had a lively discussion, with lots of people participating. Frank let the discussion with a list of questions, which was an effective way or keeping everyone organized, interested, and on topic.

Usually we end up with more questions than answers, but Isaac's Storm was a history book, so it provided some answers. As always, we read between the lines and talked about the unstated. To the question, "Why didn't Isaac make a firmer commitment to warn Galveston of the dangerous storm?" we first answered that the bureaucracy of the National Weather Service made it difficult to forecast the storm when fair weather and other forecasters seemed otherwise in"cline"d. We noted that Isaac's ego got in the way twice; once in the avoidance of being wrong and once in defying his brother in a competitive spirit. Mostly, though, we decided that, as the book said, weather forecasting was inexact and he just didn't know the extent of the oncoming hurricane.

We traveled beyond Galveston in our discussion, to Houston, New Orleans, the East Coast, Haiti, and everywhere with fault lines or tides. It seemed that the question, "Are we better prepared now for similar emergencies?" broadened our discussion beyond the book. If you didn't attend the discussion, you can guess some of what might have been said about Haiti, Katrina, and the future. If you were there, you probably enjoyed the stimulating comments.

A descendent of two of the nuns from the orphanage was at our discussion! She is telling us her family story in the second photo at the top of this posting. The nuns were her great aunts. The story of the 10 nuns who tied the children together with ropes to save them is one of the most poignant parts of the history of the storm. Reading the book, you know the nuns died trying with all their strength to save the children.

I thought this large group discussion went extremely well! With Frank officiating from the lectern, people could raise their hands and take turns speaking; and since the group was orderly and quiet, we could also chime in occasionally in a conversational manner as we usually do. The combination seemed to work for everyone. We covered a variety of topics via the questions. I don't think we completed all the questions; do we ever?

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