There is a Wideness

Written by Mark McAllister
Review by Cindy Vallar

Depression came to East Texas long before the stock market crashed, but Luke Robertson supports his ailing mother and younger sister after his father dies. When oil is discovered, he takes a job in the oil fields. Before his mother dies, he promises to take care of Marty. But that is before March 18, 1937. Shortly after three o’clock that afternoon over three hundred children and teachers die in an explosion at the high school in New London. Devastated, Luke leaves Texas forever.

Ten years later something compels Luke to return to the cemetery where his sister is buried. There he meets Russ, the caretaker. To Russ, the words on the headstones are just names. In anger, Luke tells his long-buried story so Russ will know who each of the children were and how their loss impacted him and the entire town. Russ, however, has his own secrets, one of which ties directly into the deaths of Marty and her friends.

There Is a Wideness is a powerful and inspirational retelling of the devastation wrought in 1937. The reader feels Luke’s agonizing despair, Russ’ frustration, and both men’s struggles to find peace and renewed hope. Mr. McAllister’s story evokes strong emotions, in part because his own mother stood outside the school the day it exploded. His book, which vividly transports the reader back to a Texas oil town of the thirties, dares the reader to put it down.