Kathy Fiscus:A Tragedy that Transfixed the Nation, by William Deverell

Eight stars

While scrolling through my library’s offerings one day, this book caught my eye and I felt intrigued to give it a try. Not onle to read about sensationalism in any form, I was temporarily hesitant, but changed my tune when I discovered that it was all about a little girl falling into a well. William Deverell does well to recount the story from many angles and keeps the reader involved throughout, never trying to candy coat what took place over those three days in 1949. A great piece and one that I devoured in a single sitting.

It was in April, 1949 that young Kathy Fiscus was playing with her siblings and cousins before she disappeared. A frantic mother scoured the local playground in hopes of finding her daughter engaged in some game, but little Kathy was nowhere to be found. Soon, here whereabouts was known when someone heard her small voice at the bottom of an open well, which began a major community effort to save her.

As Deverell recounts, these type of open wells were not uncommon in Southern California, though they were usually better tended to, ensuring that an event like this one could not occur. IN an area rich with water, these wells served a significant purpose, but al that was put arise as the rescue effort to save Kathy Fiscus began. The authorities sought to communicate with the little girl, successful speaking to her, before hatching a plan to get her out. Thoughts of using a rope were soon stymied because of the danger that Kathy might stranger herself trying to affix it to her body or an oscillating Kathy might come in contact with some protruding metal or rock along hr side of the shaft. It’s would b a slow process and one requiring many minds working in tandem.

As the hours turned into a full day, Kathy Fiscus was still in the well and no one was quite sure what to do. The event was gaining notoriety, both by massive numbers of spectators and media coverage. Still, noting concrete had been devised to help Kath out of the hole. Hours soon grew and things became somewhat silent, leaving many to wonder what was taking place. By Sunday night, over fifty hours since Kathy fell into the well, she was recovered, though the news was anything but joyous. The body of the little girl was brought to the surface, though she had died of causes never determined by Deverell. She might have drowned or lacked for oxygen, but it did not matter. Hearts across the city and around the country were broken at the news of Kathy Fiscus’ death. A tragedy that could likely have been prevented, though it was no time for finger pointing.

In a short book like this, narrative flow is key. William Deverell uses things effectively through the early pages and pushes onward as the story gains momentum. A strong story that grips the reader from the outset, there is much to share as time passes. Deverell hits on all the poignant points and keeps the reader engaged until the closing moments of the story. With many photos to complement to story being told, Deverell does well to bring the story to life for all those involved and makes it known just how much effort was put into helping Kathy Fiscus over those fifty-plus hours. While I may not rush out to read a great deal more about the subject, I was intrigued by what I did take away from this book and hope others feel the same.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for a highly informative piece that had been pushing forward as I sat and educated myself.