I found another excellent book that kept my mind off the weather and the glob in the Gulf of Mexico: The Seige.
Set during the first year of the blockade of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in Russia, it describes how Anna, a young lady of 22 years, fights to feed her family and an old family friend.
Although she is from England, Dunmore has captured the spirit of Russians during WWII.
Mikhail Ilyich Levin, a semi-banned writer, recites a lot of Pushkin poems and volunteers to dig trenches to "save the Motherland." (shades of War of Peace). Ann learns how to make soups and teas with strange ingredients that will provide nutrition for her little brother(wallpaper paste and leather.) She also lines up for bread and learns how to save the diminished rations. Earlier in the novel, she also digs trenches to slow down the German entrenchment.
This novel also discusses how everyone uses anything they can to burn to build fires and methods to keep out the cold. The water in the pipes freeze, so flushing toilets become a memory and so do hot baths. Some people survive by cannibalism but not Anna's family.( In two other non fictions that I read (Moscow and Stalingrad), the survival methods are more gruesome.)
I enjoyed reading Andrei Mikhailovich Alekseyev's (a fourth year medical student who "becomes" a doctor without graduating) descriptions of his Russia:
"But in Siberia, at twenty degrees below, the cold sings. Siberia's more than a place, it's a spirit which cant be translated anywhere else. People talk more openly there. They're not so scared.
In Siberia, there is too much of everything. Too much space, too much sky, too many thousands upon thousands of trees, marching away towards a horizon that never grows closer, too great a crowd of stars on winter nights. But when you know it, it's not frightening at all. Siberia becomes the only place where you can really breathe."
It reminded me of the short stories in Money for Maria, which are set in Siberia.
Not all of the novel is doom and gloom. There are moments of happiness and also moments of gratitude. Even for a little onion or a pinch of sugar.