I'm looking for the title to a book I read in the 80's about a family set in the present day surviving after a nuclear holocaust. The whole family survives for a time. The little girl hides under a table and suffers less radiation sickness than her family. Eventually the survivors emerge from hiding and start a new society, but they don't live long because of radiation sickness. It was a terrifying young adult novel.
Children of the Dust. The book details three generations of a family during the aftermath of a nuclear war. The survivors of the blast suffer through radiation, nuclear winter, feuds between rival groups and radiation-induced mutations, eventually evolving into a new species, Homo superior. The new species has adapted to the loss of the ozone layer and the abundant radiation, and will become the dominant species on the planet.
Catherine. Catherine is known by three names. Catherine, Kate then Old Kate. Catherine was her first name. She was eight as she lived under the table in the living room while there was the fall of nuclear dust.
Are you certain it was a novel, or could it have been a novelization of a movie? The most famous post-nuclear attack movie of the 80's involving families was The Day After. While reading your question I immediately settled on the memory of Steve Guttenberg carrying a little girl's body out of their last refuge. Also starred Jobeth Williams and Jason Robards. It was a big deal, a multiday television event that sparked much political notice and debate. Wikipedia says there were viewers guides distributed to schools; I'm sure the movie would have followed with a book.
I believe the answer is Brother in the Land. This story is similar to your memory, it was also read in a lot of school classrooms in the 1980s. It has to be the bleakest children's book ever written.
Denny, a teenager, is one of the unlucky ones, a survivor, one of those who have come through a nuclear war alive. In plain language he sets down all that has happened to him, what he sees, and what he feels in the first days after the bomb has dropped. This novel won The Other Award for 1984.
It only covers a single generation, with the 1994 reprint revealing that one of the females is pregnant courtesy of one of the male protagonists after two of them die, one explicitly of radiation sickness.
This story is told by a girl/young woman (teenager rather than young girl), who has survived a nuclear bombing apocalypse in the USA during a war. She survived in a valley with a "meteorological enclave" weather system and narrates the arrival of a stranger to her valley after the deaths of her family shortly after the war. The stranger arrives in a self-contained (and self-made?) radiation proof suit with radiation proof gear.
It tells the story of her meeting with the (male) stranger, who tries to take over her life, and his attempts to make her an "Eve" to his "Adam". The events that follow culminate in her leaving the valley in search of other survivors, based on dreams she has of children waiting for her to teach them and the stranger's reports of smoke from fires rising to the West.
The deaths to her family and a couple of other survivors (heard over radio?) occur fairly early on in the story and are the result of heading out of the valley searching for food and other survivors. I don't recall any other deaths after this time (i.e. not much match to the question), though the stranger does become sick from radiation poisoning shortly after his arrival in the valley and washing/drinking from a contaminated stream.