Blizzard's Wake

Blizzard's Wake

4.0 14
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

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Kate Sterling has lost four years of her life to grief and anger. Zeke Dexter has lost four years of his life as well — in jail for the accident that killed Kate's mother. Just out of prison, Zeke wants to put the past behind him, but a freak blizzard makes him a prisoner once again — he of Kate, and Kate of him.
Kate fears she will never be able to

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Kate Sterling has lost four years of her life to grief and anger. Zeke Dexter has lost four years of his life as well — in jail for the accident that killed Kate's mother. Just out of prison, Zeke wants to put the past behind him, but a freak blizzard makes him a prisoner once again — he of Kate, and Kate of him.
Kate fears she will never be able to overcome the anger that has consumed her since her mother's death. But is Zeke the only one Kate needs to forgive?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
School Library Journal Another winner from exciting survival story.

Voice of Youth Advocates 5Q 4P review With the reverberating theme of death and forgiveness, Naylor's powerful novel is quite memorable.

Publishers Weekly, starred review Pulses with drama.

Publishers Weekly
In this taut novel set in 1941 North Dakota, Naylor (Shiloh; the Alice books) brings together a number of freak occurrences-and joins them so skillfully that her story pulses with drama. Separate narrative strands introduce Kate Sterling, a teenager still mourning the death of her mother, Ann, four years earlier, and Zeke Dexter, the drunk driver who killed Ann Sterling and who has just been released from prison a year early, for good behavior. Naylor creates a highly charged atmosphere right from the beginning, as Kate feigns an interest in high school life while secretly consumed with hatred for Zeke. When an unusually severe blizzard strikes (the storm is historical), Kate, alone at home and realizing that her father, a country doctor, and younger brother are stranded just yards away in an unheated car, resourcefully plans a rescue. Meanwhile, Zeke, lost in the blinding snowfall, has stumbled, frost-bitten, into the Sterlings' car and is being tended by Doc Sterling. Kate, who has long fantasized about making Zeke suffer, is shocked. Naylor doesn't shy away from Kate's darkest feelings (assisting her father in a makeshift operation, for example, Kate administers Zeke's ether and must resist her urge to give him too much-or too little). As unlikely as the plot sounds, the believability of the characters and the complexity of their emotions give the novel psychological truth and strong resonance to its protagonists' slow movement toward forgiveness. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2002: Fifteen-year-old Kate Sterling lives outside of Grand Forks, North Dakota, in March 1941. Across the ocean the world is warring, in the unseasonably warm air a blizzard is lurking, and in Kate's heart the hatred she feels toward the drunk driver who took her mother's life is boiling. Meanwhile, the driver, Zeke Dexter, has just completed his prison term and is coming back home to the only family he has left. In alternating chapters, Naylor brings these two characters closer and closer until, in an ironic twist of fate, they are trapped with Kate's father and brother by the Red River Valley Blizzard of '41, which almost kills them all. Naylor's description allows the reader to experience the blizzard's suffocating white power. While they wait for the plows to reach their rural home, Kate struggles to control her violent feelings toward Zeke in the face of his remorse and her father's compassion for him. Even her younger brother moves beyond his own pain to befriend the man who has killed his mother. When injury confines Zeke to her home even longer, Kate comes to realize she is destroying herself through her hatred, and that only forgiveness will begin her healing process. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Simon & Schuster, Pulse, 231p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Michele Winship
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Another winner from Naylor. After four years, Kate Sterling, 15, is still mourning her mother's accidental death caused by Zeke Dexter's drunk driving. She is so inconsolable that she becomes increasingly withdrawn and isolates herself from her peers. Chapters alternate between Kate's and Zeke's voices. As he returns to town after serving his prison sentence, a deadly snowstorm is approaching; simultaneously, Kate's father and brother are returning from visiting one of her dad's patients. They become stranded in the car, and she is able to rescue them before they freeze to death. Unknown to her, she is also saving Zeke, the person she hates most. The succeeding events detail her courage in dealing with her grief and with the presence of the man who killed her mother as he is given refuge in her home. The story takes place in a small, North Dakota town during the famous blizzard of March, 1941. Naylor uses dramatic but accurate details to describe the fury of the storm as well as the prewar period, thus enriching the sense of time and place. An exciting survival story interwoven with one individual's personal struggle to overcome hatred and learn to forgive.-Susan Cooley, formerly at Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE
Kirkus Reviews
Kate Sterling is alone in her house as the great blizzard of 1941 rages around her. Her father, Doc, and her brother Jesse are stranded in their car-snowbound. Zeke Dexter, the convict who killed Kate's mother, has just gotten out of prison, and is out there somewhere walking in the storm. Kate has dreamed of Zeke's return and of the revenge she will exact. Wandering blindly and nearly dead, Zeke happens to bump into Doc Sterling's car, now almost drifted over. And Kate, determined to act, ties a clothesline around her waist, tethers herself to a fence, goes out exploring, and happens to find the car. The convergence of Kate, Zeke, and the worst blizzard in anyone's memory makes for a good, well-plotted story, in spite of the coincidences that make it all work. Kate's heroic efforts to save her father and brother result in the unexpected: her mother's killer stranded in her own house. And when Zeke is injured chopping wood out back, Kate ends up helping nurse him back to health. Kate must come to terms with Zeke as a person and with her hatred as a debilitating emotion. With WWII in the background, the blizzard's ravages, and the storms in the lives of the characters, this becomes a story about forgiveness and facing up to the forces in one's life. Kate realizes she can stay true to her mother's memory, be civil to Zeke, and not be consumed by hatred. A nice addition to this Newbery winner's body of work. (historical note) (Fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written more than 135 books, including the Newbery Award–winning Shiloh, the Alice series, and Roxie and the Hooligans. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. To hear from Phyllis and find out more about Alice, visit

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