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In October 1948, the mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania was covered in smog due to a combination of the mill emissions and the weather. This actual historical event led to a movement for clean air in the United States culminating in the Clean Air Act.
Rose Pavlesic is a community nurse; her husband works in one of Donora's mills. Rose is a hard-working, no-nonsense woman and mother. Years earlier, nursing had given Rose the opportunity to better her life. Her dedication sometimes comes at a cost to her family. Her life is mired in work and she struggles to balance her career with family and a number of escalating personal problems.
The central figure, Rose, is not particularly sympathetic. Her character is flawed, complex, interesting and admirable. Her tough, unsentimental approach to life is better understood as her history is revealed. A fair amount of the story is devoted to background and setting up for the environmental disaster. Some readers will find the atmosphere of this story too bleak, and Rose herself unlikable and often foul-mouthed. Though not exactly enjoyable, “After the Fog” is compelling. Ms Shoop's research is evident in the details of this environmental incident and in nursing and medical practices of the 1940s. It is a somber almost depressing read, yet its gritty realism and flawed, believable characters make it a recommended read for lovers of historical fiction.