About this 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.
About the author: (from her website) Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She is the author of A Cup of Dust (Kregel, 2015), Paint Chips (WhiteFire Publishing, 2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (WhiteFire Publishing 2014).
She is currently working on her fourth novel.
Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG
Content advisory: the story encompasses some of the harsh realities of this time and place, including social vocabulary and treatment of animals.
Reminds me of: Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
[Tweet “A novel of the Dust Bowl that exceeded expectation #ACupOfDust @SusieFinkbeiner @KregelBooks”]
Reflection: It’s such a gift when a novel exceeds my expectations–and this one came with a few too, having been recommended by two others in the writing industry before I received it in hand. Which can place a book in a precarious position, having to live up to a high reputation. But A Cup of Dust did just that from the very beginning when Pearl Spence ran off without her shoes, making me fall in love first with her, and then with the rest of her family.
After that first, warm plunge, my infatuation was kept afloat by the author’s lilting prose that read more often like poetry. Susie Finkbeiner caught me in the weave of her storytelling spell long before the blue-eyed stranger jumped from the train and called young Pearl by name. I marveled at her fresh, original voice and tone–pitch-perfect for the period. Thanks to her finely tuned attention to detail and meticulous crafting of setting and plot, not a page passed that I did not feel submerged in a time and place largely forgotten. Three-dimensional characters emerged in idiosyncratic glory, rendering a story atypical in Christian fiction–which is exactly why I liked it so much. In the tradition of writers such as Christa Parrish and Jolina Petersheim, A Cup of Dust is filled with twists in both character and plot, and richly layered in nuance.
The end result is the kind of story that lingers long after you turn the last page. I’m still thinking about Pearl and her family: Meemaw and Mama and Beanie–and perhaps most of all Daddy, in whom I caught a glimpse of our Heavenly Father’s abiding affection for his beloved children.
Though reading this story with all its hardships sometimes felt like pressing on a bruise, the themes of generous compassion and constancy kept it from descending into morbidity. At times heart-breaking but ultimately heartwarming, A Cup of Dust paints a vibrant portrait of perseverance through suffering and the beauty of tender, familial love.
Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: What book have you read lately that caught you by surprise?