After the Fog by Kathleen Shoop
I purchased the ebook from Barnes & Noble.
After the Fog takes place in Donora, PA, in the fall of 1948. Donora is a steel and zinc mill town about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, and things are booming until an unusual weather pattern traps the town in a thick smog of dangerous pollution. Rose, the community nurse, has her hands full trying to treat patients while her home life is unraveling.
Shoop captures the region well. Residents of southwestern PA will love the references to Isaly's and cinderblock basement showers, pierogies, and other area quirks. The regional speech patterns also come through wonderfully (I've always maintained that "yunz" is a better rendering of our second-person plural than "yinz"). At times, however, the setting felt oddly distant. The events of the book took place only 65 years ago and many residents of the area would still be able to recall the period very well, but it seems that Shoop did most of her research in archives rather than interviews. That removal comes through in the writing.
My main beef with this book was that, not only did I dislike all of the characters except Leo, Father Tom, and the dog, I didn't care what happened to any of them. As Rose's family disintegrates more with every page, her actions and those of everyone else left me indifferent to the outcome. The characters, especially Rose, seem more like psychology textbook cases than living, breathing people. Other than the smog, the events and how the characters deal with them are so familiar as to be cliche. The fog itself serves only as a backdrop for the action in Rose's family, but I ceased early on to care about Rose's family.
I would recommend this book only if you have a strong interest in regional history and culture.
This was a selection of my book club. I'm interested to find out what the other ladies thought of this one. I had a hard time wanting to pick it up to read and found myself frittering away time on the internet that I would normally spend reading. If it hadn't been for the regional aspect and the fact that I'll be discussing this soon, I'm not sure I would even have finished it.