RISING TIDE: THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI FLOOD OF 1927 AND HOW IT CHANGED AMERICA, by John M. Barry, Simon & Schuster, $27.50.
In this volume, which chronicles the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River, whose waters swept across an area the size of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined, Barry relates the details of a catastrophe that caused more than a thousand deaths and forced almost a million people from their homes. This disaster initiated a struggle not only of man against nature, the author points out, but of “man against man. For the flood brought with it also a human storm. Honor and money collided. White and black collided. Regional and national power structure collided.” Barry describes some of the flood’s political repercussions, which included the election of Huey Long as governor of Louisiana, Herbert Hoover’s successful bid for the presidency in 1928, partly as a result of his prominence as head of flood relief, and acceptance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s later New Deal policies, as the tragedy persuaded Americans that the federal government had a duty to take care of its citizens.