Flood Stage and Rising


Flood Stage and Rising

Jane Varley

128 pages


April 2005


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

What could be safer than Grand Forks, North Dakota, settled on the vast, flat plain of the Red River? There’d be no danger unless the whole town went under water. But in April 1997 that is precisely what happened. Flood Stage and Rising tells the story of that month-long disaster from the point of view of one who lived through it—fighting the flood shoulder-to-shoulder with her neighbors, watching in horror as the water breaks the dikes, fleeing the city only to see, via newscasts, her town burst into flames at the height of the flood—and finally working to put her own and Grand Fork’s life back together.
As she chronicles North Dakota’s disastrous winter and spring—and the tortuous recovery process that continues to this day—Jane Varley gives us a shocking, moving picture of the reality behind the headline news that riveted the nation. A gifted poet and essayist, Varley has crafted a first-rate adventure narrative that is also a love story about a particular place and time, infused with her passion for the natural world, a curiosity about rivers and remote landscapes, and a need for meaning. Her story culminates a life of travels that prepared her—and prepares us—for what we see in North Dakota as the lake bed of the Red River Valley refills with water like a ghost of its ancient past.

Author Bio

Jane Varley teaches writing at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio.


“Varley has the eye of a poet, with a true poet’s effervescent acuity for the natural world, and she weaves a lovely metaphor for herself and the countryside of her passion in this thoughtful, defining memoir with a story as gripping as a novel.”—Larry Woiwode, author of Beyond the Bedroom Wall and What I Think I Did

“Part celebration, part lament, Varley’s story of the rise and fall of waters she has known, culminating in the Grand Forks flood of 1997, explores our visceral connection to place and memory. What permeates and elevates this personal narrative is the mix of grand adventure and deep appreciation for both flux and constancy that informs Varley’s vision. The lyrical movement of her prose is like the music of water itself: undulant, resonant, and powerful.”—Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness

“It is all told so clearly, so dispassionately, so lovingly in Jane’s flowing style that I found myself reading on and on, enjoying the smooth flow of prose. . . . This is truly the mark of a fine poet, a superb user of words, able to communicate a feeling, a thought, with grace and a sort of eloquent charisma.”—Glenn M. Busset, The Manhattan Mercury

Flood Stage and Rising is a story of intertwining gains and losses—from the breath-stopping tragedy of the Grand Forks flood to the strength discovered in personal reflection, in the support of spouse and friends and family, and in the imaginative power of memory itself.”—Mark Vinz, coeditor of Imagining Home: Writing from the Midwest

“I recommend this book to sociologists, psychologists, geographers, and others who are concerned with how people interact with landscapes and respond to disasters. I found the book enjoyable reading because it gave me insights into my own relationship with landscapes and a better understanding of people’s reaction to disaster.”—Donald E. Agthe, Journal of the American Water Resources

"With a poet's eye and an artist's gift for both vibrant and poignant detail, Varley takes us along on her journey. … In a riveting narrative of lyrical imagery and documentary intensity, Varley succeeds in re-creating the unpredictable forces of nature."—Great Plains Quarterly

“An exceptionally well-written memoir of [Varley’s] own experiences and feeling as Grand Forks was inundated by the flood waters. . . . .  The power of her story is contained in the day-to-day descriptions of the building calamity. Her keen eye for detail and fine ear for dialog make her reminiscence of the flood days a splendid, moving read.”—Terry Shoptaugh, North Dakota History