Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner

A Cup of Dust

A Cup of Dust is set in the Dust Bowl--the bleak 1930s when crops (and often souls) dried up from lack of rain. The novel is told through the eyes of Pearl, the 10 year old daughter of the local sheriff. Their family is rather well off compared to many in town. Her mama always made a point of helping out those in need by sharing food or anonymous gifts of groceries. Pearl lives with her parents, an older sister and her grandmother. They attend church with a stern pastor who seems to be preaching  against his own failings. There is heartbreak all around the community as people struggle to make ends meet.  Little by little families move away in the hopes of a better life.

The local excitement is the addition of a settlement of transient people who set up a Hooverville camp in the area.  Pearl's mother bakes extra bread and tries to help others as much as she can and as much as the recipient's pride will allow.  One man in the group starts spending a lot of time watching Pearl; often showing up when she is all alone. He says he's got secrets that will change her life. When Pearl tries to tell her parents about him, the sheriff thinks he's harmless and doesn't take her fears seriously.

As his carefully veiled threats increase and sinister events continue to add up, I wanted to shake some sense into Pearl's parents. You would think a sheriff would be a little more aware of things. Then Pearl's older sister gets beaten within an inch of her life, and a chain of events leads to revelations and tragedy.

The book gives a view at what it was like to live in the Dust Bowl while throwing in some mystery about Pearl's life.  Pearl sees families starving and living in squalor, men in the clutches of alcohol's grip and a world slowly fading from a peaceful, safe place to one of fear and uncertainty.

In spite of all the hardships the characters experience, the author does end the book with some glimmer of hope--much like the faint signs of a rainbow on the book's cover.  Readers will gain a fresh understanding and admiration for those who survived this bleak period in American history.

Read an excerpt of the book or listen to the author read a portion.  Make sure to check out the author's website to learn more about her and her writing.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of A Cup of Dust from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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