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A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl Paperback – October 27, 2015
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"The author does a great job of giving the reader a feel for those dark days in our nation’s history. Very intriguing reading!" (McNeil Dwain Virgil, a Dust Bowl survivor 2015-10-27)
"The story is excellent and an accurate story of the dust storms." (Phyllis M. Wagner, a Dust Bowl survivor 2015-10-27)
"Riveting. An achingly beautiful tale told with a singularly fresh and original voice." (Jocelyn Green, award-winning author of the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War series 2015-10-27)
About the Author
Susie Finkbeiner is a stay-at-home mom, speaker, and author from West Michigan. Her previous books include Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014). She has served as fiction editor and regular contributor to the Burnside Writers Guild and Unbound magazine. Finkbeiner is an avid blogger (see www.susiefinkbeiner.com), is on the planning committee of the Breathe Christian Writers Conference, and has presented or led groups of other writers at several conferences.
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Top customer reviews
A Cup of Dust is not what you'd call a pretty story. Set in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, it depicts in lyrical prose and excruciating detail the hardships of that time and that place. So, no, it's not a pretty story. But it's a GOOD story.
From the moment we meet 10-year-old Pearl, daughter of the local sheriff, we see everything that happens through her eyes that don't miss a thing. Right alongside her, we learn about Hoovervilles and hoboes and FDR and jackrabbits. And dust. Oh, the dust. We see what people did when they were desperate with no food to feed their babies. How people in desperate straits can treat each other with the height of kindness and the depth of cruelty.
In short, it's a bold depiction of a fallen world in need of a Savior. To be honest, I had to skim over certain parts of the story that were too raw and violent for me to take in. It took me a while to finish it, because I had to keep having to put it down and process what I'd read. But the hard passages seem honest, never gratuitous, and are balanced by occasional lighter moments that keep the story from unrelieved sorrow. And the well-crafted suspense kept drawing me back to find out what was going to happen next.
A Cup of Dust was not a "fun" read, but it's a story that will stick with me for a good long while me and make me think. Once in a while, it's important to take off the rose-colored glasses and understand things for how they really were.
It was hard to escape their reality, Pearl says, “The dust got in no matter how hard we tried to keep it out. It worked its way into a crack here or a loose floorboard there. A hole in the roof or a gap in a windowsill. It always found a way in always won…Still, I couldn’t help but imagine that the dust was one big old whopping from the very hand of God….I wondered how good we’d all have to be to get God to stop being angry at us.”
Meemaw told me, “Life has a way of taking what we know and tangling it all in knots. It ain’t gonna be easy on you to know the truth, never is. But you’re a brave girl. And your strong in the Lord.”
“Every storm has a beginning and every storm has an end. They never last forever.” She whispered, “God is the one who saves. Don’t forget it…Before I knew it, I was hugging my new dress and crying hard because all the green had dried up and gone, never to come back again.…Desperate times called for desperate measures. For those who were unable to leave they did their best with what they had.”
Pearl’s Mom and her Dad the Sheriff helped keep order in their community and helped people where they could. Pearl’s Mom and MeeMaw were strong women doing what they had to keep the faith and pass on food and love all the way.
This is a well-crafted drama with a mystery in the mix. It involved a secret being forced to the surface. Not everyone handles a crisis in the same manner as Pearl and her family. Tough topics portrayed in this novel were those of spousal and child abuse, cruelty to animals and murder. This is not for the faint of heart. I’d rate it a PG 13.
This is a thought-provoking, tender-hearted, emotional read I had to finish because I just had to know how things work out for Pearl and her family as they weathered the storm. This author became obsessed with what happened in the Great Depression and how the people dealt with the dust storms. She says, “After writing A Cup of Dust, I find that my admiration for the Dust Bowl survivors has grown. They were courageous, faithful, optimistic, and generous with what little they had. After all, who knew what the next year might bring. It very well might bring rain, and mercy from the Lord himself.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Kregel Publications
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins![...]
The Book Club Network blog[...]
Book Fun Magazine[...]
The first-person narration feels nearly perfect. I was immediately captured by Pearl Spence’s precocious and endearing voice. She is young, yet possesses a maturity that surpasses her years. Though the harshness of the Dust Bowl has forced Pearl to grow up in many ways, she is still a child, and her outlook matches that. Pearl’s narration brings freshness and balance to the harsh setting better than I could have imagined. Her naivety and moments of deep insight and clarity blend together in such a skillful way.
The historical details are vivid, and Pearl’s memories of before the Dust Bowl bring the current state of affairs into sharp contrast. The struggles of everyday life, whether it’s keeping grit and dust out of your home, eyes and lungs, having enough food to eat, or feeling the constant worry of a sudden dust storm, are all described vividly. The secondary characters are as equally compelling. Pearl’s parents and grandmother are the pillars that hold up the family, yet Pearl is the glue that keeps them all in place. Their interactions together have such a realness and truthfulness to them. I was deeply moved by this family’s resiliency in the face of hard and dangerous times.
The plot held my interest the entire time; some of the chapters reminded me of vignettes, in that they were snap shots of Pearl’s life and the life of her family. Everything was revealed in a way that felt in keeping with the rest of the story, and I had a keen sense of how Pearl spent her days. Though some might feel it was slow moving, I feel that the plot suited the story and the setting. While the action builds slowly, when it does reach its crescendo, the emotion that goes with it is deep and riveting.
The menacing nature of the antagonist never feels cartoonish or unrealistic. It is truly one of those instances where it's a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and Pearl is the only one that sees the wolf. It’s one of those moments that I had to pause for reflection, to really remember that everyone has a reason and rationale for the way they respond to life. In Pearl’s word, people have “scars on their hearts,” and it’s the way one chooses to respond that makes all the difference. Susie did an excellent job creating this malignant character, while allowing the reader to see the reasoning behind it.
I haven’t read any of Susie Finkbeiner's books other than this one, but you can be sure that I will do so in the future. Any continuation of the Spence family story would be bumped to the top of my to-read list. A Cup of Dust was a complete joy to read. She did not write a feel good story, but rather created something heartbreaking and beautiful, and true. The ending doesn’t wrap things up neatly in a bow, but still left me with a profound hope. The story gave me a sense of admiration and respect for those who lived through one of history’s worst moments, and a deep appreciation for the real meaning of family and the unwavering, sacrificial love that goes with it. A Cup of Dust is historical fiction at its finest, and I highly recommend it.