I just finished reading “The stormchasers” by Jenna Blum, a book I purchased together with “What stands in a storm” by Kim Cross earlier this spring. Where “What stands in a storm” was a documentary about the April 27th 2011 tornadoes in Alabama “The stormchasers” is pure fiction. It is a story about Karen, a journalist who has not seen her twin brother Charles for over 20 years. Charles suffers from a bipolar disorder and left without trace after an unmentioned tragedy on their 18th birthday. Charles also happens to be a storm chaser.
The book starts off with a phone call to Karen from a mental institution in Wichita, KS, where Charles has been hospitalized. This is the first actual sign of Charles for those 20 years and Karen speedily heads out to the Plains to catch him but nearly misses him. She figures out that if Charles is about to go storm chasing, this might be a reasonable way to find him so she signs up with the fictional storm chasing tour company: “Whirlwind tours”.
The first part of the novel takes place in a setting a know very well, the storm chasing tour setting. We get to follow Karen as she learns about storm chasing and experience tornadoes up close, while in fact chasing Charles. It is a delight to read a novel in such a setting and to take part in Karens trip around the Plains. We get to experience a love story and a lot of storm chasing stuff that will satisfy most chasers out there. Jenna seems to have done her research and the only thing that was a bit off was one part about seeing mammatus in the base of a storm.
Storm chasing is a main theme of the novel but the book is much about the bond between the twins but mainly about Charles’ bipolar disorder and how it affects everyone he meets, and Karen in particular. We get to dive deeply into how it is having a loved one with such a destructive disorder. It is heart breaking and painful but written with so much love so you can understand why Karen is so obsessed in finding her brother.
The novel is divided in three different parts where the storm chasing tour part is the first, and from a chaser perspective this is the most interesting part as well. Although the love story and the intricate bond between Charles and Karen is interesting, I personally find it being “just another novel” during those parts. It is not bad, not at all, just not amazing.
I really loved the first part of the book, and liked the book overall, and as a book to read while driving towards your chase target it is absolutely perfect. Not too heavy, enough storm chasing to make it a great “chase book” and interesting enough to keep your attention all throughout the book. A solid EF-2 rating on this one!