Red River Rising is a well-researched compelling narrative that increases in suspense as the water rises. Ashley Shelby depicts a city in crisis while conveying dramatically the complexity of intergovernmental workings and interpersonal relationships." Douglas Whynott, author of A Unit of Water, a Unit of Time
From Publishers Weekly Journalist Shelby applies the familiar trope of public catastrophe as historical watershed to her study of the record-breaking 1997 flood in Grand Forks, North Dakota, that forced the evacuation of 50,000 residents and touched off devastating fires after the Red River overtopped its dikes. The event, she contends, bifurcated the town's sense of time into "before the flood" and "after the flood," a division she honors in the book. The first part is a lucid, sometimes gripping account of the gathering disaster, explaining the freak weather patterns that precipitated the inundation, the difficulties the National Weather Service had in predicting the unprecedented scale of the flood, and the desperate efforts of engineers to hold back the water. The second part is a thorough micro-history of the aftermath, detailing battles between flood victims and city officials over relief funds and the effects of a new dike system that expunged entire neighborhoods from the flood plain. Here Shelby gets mired in city politics-as-usual. She devotes much space to displaced residents' griping over the buyout offers they received from the city, and to a redevelopment bid for an Amazon.com warehouse that had little to do with the flood. Straining for pathos and meaning, she styles Grand Forks' last seven years as a single, apocalyptic "Joycean day" of "flood angst." That goes a bit far, but still, this is a well-researched portrait of a city coping with a crisis. Photos. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.