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Review: This is Chance! by Jon Mooallem

Title: This is Chance! The Shaking of an ALL-AMERICAN CITY and the Voice that Held it Together
Author: Jon Mooallem
Year published: 2020
Category: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 336 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (AL, TX)

Summary In the spring of 1964, Anchorage, Alaska, was a modern-day frontier town yearning to be a metropolis—the largest, proudest city in a state that was still brand-new. But just before sundown on Good Friday, the community was jolted by the most powerful earthquake in American history, a catastrophic 9.2 on the Richter Scale. For four and a half minutes, the ground lurched and rolled. Streets cracked open and swallowed buildings whole. And once the shaking stopped, night fell and Anchorage went dark. The city was in disarray and sealed off from the outside world.

Slowly, people switched on their transistor radios and heard a familiar woman’s voice explaining what had just happened and what to do next. Genie Chance was a part-time radio reporter and working mother who would play an unlikely role in the wake of the disaster, helping to put her fractured community back together. Her tireless broadcasts over the next three days would transform her into a legendary figure in Alaska and bring her fame worldwide—but only briefly. That Easter weekend in Anchorage, Genie and a cast of endearingly eccentric characters—from a mountaineering psychologist to the local community theater group staging Our Town—were thrown into a jumbled world they could not recognize. Together, they would make a home in it again.

Drawing on thousands of pages of unpublished documents, interviews with survivors, and original broadcast recordings, This Is Chance! is the hopeful, gorgeously told story of a single catastrophic weekend and proof of our collective strength in a turbulent world.

There are moments when reality instantly changes—when the life we assume is stable gets upended by pure chance. This Is Chance! is an electrifying and lavishly empathetic portrayal of one community rising above the randomness, a real-life fable of human connection withstanding chaos.

Review: I would not have heard of this book and read it (well, listened to it) if not for a book group choosing it. I am so glad we picked it. I liked the narrator of the audio book, which always helps. 

Reading about an earthquake could be dull. But this book is about more than an earthquake; it's really about the new state of Alaska, the town of Anchorage, and its inhabitants. Reading about how the people came together, the impact the radio broadcasts had on the rest of the nation, and how the people's lives turned out was super interesting. 
There is definitely a parallel to the play Our Town in this book and it has been many years since I've seen or read it so that was an interesting connection. Like the stage manager/narrator in Our Town, the book tells us how the characters will eventually die and is a study of a town and the relationship of the people.

I'll admit to getting choked up while listening to the reading of Genie's radio shows when she was listing names of people in Anchorage, saying if they were ok, listing family members who were looking for others, etc. It seemed so personal, so real.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (title)--T
  • Literary Escapes--Alaska
  • Popsugar--set in the decade I was born (1960s)

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