I love historical fiction, but I will admit that I didn't know much about the time period of the Dust Bowl before I read this novel from Susie Finkbeiner. I found myself very caught up in the story, and I learned so much about this very bleak time in history.
About the book...
Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma's Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff's family, they've got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They're who the town turns to when there's a crisis or a need--and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.
Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother's unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn't sure she likes.
Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Eddie is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he's really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won't be the only thing darkening Pearl's world.
While the tone is suspenseful and often poignant, the subtle humor of Pearl's voice keeps A Cup of Dust from becoming heavy-handed. Finkbeiner deftly paints a story of a family unit coming together despite fractures of distress threatening to pull them apart.
The story is told in first person by ten-year-old Pearl. I wasn't sure how I would like a book told from her childish perspective, but it worked very well for this story. In fact, having the story told from Pearl's perspective was an excellent way to deal with all of the things that happened to the family througout the story.
Although Pearl is the narrator, all of the characters in the story are well-developed as we see them through the eyes of Pearl. The author does an excellent job helping the reader to really get to know the interesting and compelling characters in the story.
The Dust Bowl was certainly a dark time in the period of our country, and, despite the fact that I've read quite a few novels set during the great depression, the Dust Bowl hasn't really come up. It certainly was a bleak time. And the author gives a little background information about it at the end of the book. The solidarity and love of Pearl's family throughout the awful challenges of the time- poverty, constant dust storms, loss of land and cattle, frequent death- is a great theme. The relationships that we see through the eyes of Pearl are touching and made me thankful for my own family and the relationships we have.
I've come away from A Cup of Dust with a newfound interest in this time period of history. The story as well as the words of the author at the end have aroused my curiosity, and I plan to read more about this period of history.
I give A Cup of Dust 5 stars and a PG-13 for content. You can find the book on Kregel here and on Amazon here.
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