Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Unresolved by T.K. Welsh

Unresolved is a fascinating blend of ghost story and historical fiction. The historical event that forms the basis of the plot is the sinking of the paddle steamer ferry, General Slocum, June 15, 1904. The steamer was ferrying members of the St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church when fire broke out in the forward Lamp Room. It was thought that a careless discarding of a lighted cigarette onto straw ignited the blaze, which rapidly spread throughout the steamer. Contributing to the terrible loss of life (over 1000 persons perished) was the lack of working fire hoses and life jackets which caused women and children to sink like stones. It was considered the worst disaster in New York city until the events of 9/11.

The author, T.K. Welsh takes many of the facts known about the disaster and the subsequent inquest and incorporates them into her story. She tells the story of the disaster from the viewpoint of 15 year old Mallory Meer who is on the General Slocum with her mother, her younger sister Nixie, her older sister Louisa and her brother Helmuth. Also on the excursion is Dustin Brauer, the boy Mallory is falling in love with. Unfortunately, Mallory does not survive the disaster - she is a ghost relating the events to us, the reader.
The book opens with Mallory who lingers as a ghost recounting the tragedy and who cannot find peace until she helps bring to justice those responsible for the fire and the loss of life. From the character of Mallory, we trace the events that happened just prior to the fire, the disaster itself and on through to the inquest. It is through Mallory, as a ghost, that we learn what people think and feel. We learn about Dustin's past and the history of Mallory's family too. We are told about the German community in New York city, Kleinduetschland and about the Knickerbocker Steamship Company who owned the steamer.
As happened in real life, in Unresolved, those truly responsible are not held accountable and punished. Or are they?
This gripping historical novel held my interest to the gripping and shocking end.
For those who would like to do further reading on the General Slocum disaster please see the following website:
General Slocum

You can read "History of the General Slocum Disaster" by J.S. Olgivie:
scroll down using the arrow to get to the title page.

No comments: