= Intriguing Stories of Survival
“It was one thing to daydream about this in my
Washington, D.C., cubicle; it was another thing to take up
residence in a house that rested precariously in the
hearth of an erupting volcano.” ~Jake Halpern
The minute I saw this book, I became rather intrigued.
You always wonder what it would be like to live in an
extreme climate and this book tells you about all the
people who live in extreme locales from North Carolina to
Hawaii. If you think it might be interesting to read about
people living in towns ravaged by wildfires, erupting
volcanoes or ocean storms, this is your book.
Jake Halpern has written for the New Republic, The New
Yorker, Commonweal and other magazines. He has lived in
New York, Prague, Tel Aviv, Washington, D.C. and India and
seems to enjoy visiting really dangerous places.
The authors interest in people who don’t want to move
seems to originate from a time when he wrote a story about
Jewish settlers living in Hebron. When he returned to the
United States, he wondered if the desire to keep one’s
home was more universal than originally thought. Jake
Halpern has also been known to return to where he grew up
in Buffalo, New York. As he says: “I kinda like it
here.” The area is also inhabited by people who refuse
Soon, he was writing a story about Centralia,
Pennsylvania where the coal mines have been on fire for
almost 40 years. He became intrigued by the thought that
in a world of jetsetters, “permanent” homes still
In this book you get to vicariously experience the
lives of brave souls who refuse to move. While the average
American is moving 12 times during their life, some
residents have said enough is enough and not even an
eviction notice sends them packing. They remain in frozen
outposts, submerged towns and other seemingly godforsaken
Through Halpern’s writing, you will journey to an
underwater town in Princeville, N.C; The Lava-Side Inn,
Royal Gardens, Hawaii; the Canyon of the Firefighting
Hillbillies in Malibu, California; the Home of the Storm
Riders in Grand Isle, Louisiana; and the Unique Indoor
city/tower in Wittier, Alaska.
If you get a job offer from any of these places, may I
suggest this book?
You can visit with Thad Knight who survived Hurricane
Floyd and found peace returning to his old home
instead of staying at the cramped gravel parking lot of
the displacement camp. His story of survival is quite
amazing. Not only did he have to get the power company to
put his property back on the grid, he had to remove
coffins from his lawn in N.C.
The story of Whittier,
rather fascinating. Let us just conclude that if Babs
Reynolds could survive her three husbands, Alaska is no
problem. There is also some humor and stories of Brenda
Tolman and her pet reindeers who try to escape into the
Why anyone would continue to build homes in Malibu, is
beyond me. Millie Decker has been fighting fires since
1928. Believe it or not, I could relate to beating the
ground furiously with wet gunnysacks when I lived in
Africa. I also loved the story of
the pet mountain lions!
Researching The Lava-Side Inn sounds like a good reason
for a vacation, although once you read about Jack Thompson
operating a B&B in the middle of a lava flow, it gets
a bit tricky. It is interesting how Jake and Jack have a
similar interest in people “Living on the Edge.” If
you think walking on top of a lava flow is interesting,
wait until you read about what happens when it rains.
The story of “Island Storm Riders” brought back
memories. These people are brave, brave, brave! Get out
the kerosene lanterns. You will also learn why people are
buried above ground. Those who are alive are not the only
ones riding out the storms.
It was interesting to learn about “place identity,”
“Projected Dates of Disappearance,” to feel a sense of
homesickness for places you have never been, and to
remember various situations where you could relate
directly to the experiences in this book. “Braving
Home” reveals the true sense of home and gives you the
feeling that we are all survivors, no matter where we
Halpern’s “traveling to dangerous places” writing
is fresh, witty and he has a real talent for investigating
the forsaken. You just have to love how stubbornly some
Americans hold onto that place we call home. In the
Epilogue he tells how he returns to each location.
One of the most intriguing and heartfelt books on
“home” I’ve read this year! You end up feeling like
you were the one visiting all these locations. The writing
is spectacular in its creativity and depth. I look forward
to reading future books by this talented author.
~The Rebecca Review
Hurricane Luis Survivor