What could be safer than Grand Forks, North Dakota, settled on the vast, flat plain of the Red River? There’d be no danger unless the whole town went under water. But in April 1997 that is precisely what happened. Flood Stage and Rising tells the story of that month-long disaster from the point of view of one who lived through it—fighting the flood shoulder-to-shoulder with her neighbors, watching in horror as the water breaks the dikes, fleeing the city only to see, via newscasts, her town burst into flames at the height of the flood—and finally working to put her own and Grand Fork’s life back together.
As she chronicles North Dakota’s disastrous winter and spring—and the tortuous recovery process that continues to this day—Jane Varley gives us a shocking, moving picture of the reality behind the headline news that riveted the nation. A gifted poet and essayist, Varley has crafted a first-rate adventure narrative that is also a love story about a particular place and time, infused with her passion for the natural world, a curiosity about rivers and remote landscapes, and a need for meaning. Her story culminates a life of travels that prepared her—and prepares us—for what we see in North Dakota as the lake bed of the Red River Valley refills with water like a ghost of its ancient past.