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A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl

Susie Finkbeiner
A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl

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... Read More

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Item # 1597591


Item # 1597591

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. Ernie DuPre 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.
  • Store Only: Yes
  • Product type: Book
  • Format: Softcover
  • Release Date: Oct 27, 2015
  • UPC: 9780825443886
  • Height: 0.70
  • Width: 5.40
  • Length: 8.50
  • Volumes/Discs: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: Oct 27, 2015
  • Language: English
  • Audience Age Maximum: 0
  • Audience Age Minimum: 0
  • BISAC: "FIC042030"
  • ISBN: 0825443881

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Storms beyond the Dust by Kathleen E. on 11/17/2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl by Susie Finkbeiner, © 2015

The Dust-Bowl Era
Survivors. Doing what they know to do.

Only excitement lately is the train pulling in near us. Until the day one man getting off a boxcar with others, walks right to me and says, "Pearl?" Then he saunters off. How does he know my name? I am silent. I say nothing.

I am handed a birthday card every year that I am to hide from Mama ~ not signed, who is it from? There is more going on than the wind blowing the Oklahoma dust over the land. My Daddy's the sheriff. He and I are close. He is a good man and looks out for us.

A somber story of a harrowing time in history during the Great Depression. The loss wasn't as much about money as it was holding on to hope and dreams. There was not much money could buy. Shriveled up living left behind empty storefronts and a loss of neighbors, as those believing they traveled away to a better time. The better time actually was families ~ clinging to each other and helping out where they could. Sharing what they had, including kind and encouraging words for a better tomorrow as the storms abated and lives returned to an earlier time of green grass and fattened cattle.

I remembered grass. It could get as green as that dress. I remembered how bright the fields were after the rain. Even before the dust came, it didn't rain all that often, but when it did, we thanked God over and over. Back then, I would pretend that I was a flower standing tall in the downpour. Mama would call me in, but I'd only obey after I'd let the drops fall on my head and in my mouth and run all the way down my body.
Those were days when I never felt thirsty or hungry. Green was the color of enough.
A Cup of Dust, 191-192

Others may have had another view of the time, but this is Pearl's story. Fear held in, afraid if it dispelled all she knew to be true, it would collapse against the faint haze of the sun against the glowing dust piles as far as the eye could see.

***Thank you to Kregel Publications for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl by Susie Finkbeiner. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Authentically captures the Dust Bowl and the strength of the people by Sue on 11/12/2015

Whenever I read historical fiction set in the Dust Bowl area and in the Great Depression years, I judge that book against several things: John Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH, Dorothea Lange's iconic photographs, the recent PBS/Ken Burn's television series, and personal stories of my father's childhood in Depression-era Wisconsin. From the first pages of her first novel, A CUP OF DUST, I felt that Susie Finkbeiner was authentically recreating a Dust Bowl era Oklahoma town and its people. I was almost through the 300+ page novel, when I flipped to the final author's notes and read that Finkbeiner herself gauges any Dust Bowl information against Steinbeck, Lange, and Burns. Perhaps that is why the mix of setting and character meshed so well in her book.

Ten year old Pearl Spence's family is surviving the Depression better than most. Her father, the town's sheriff receives a regular paycheck, although quite small, and her mother wisely rations it throughout the month so that she can quietly and sometimes anonymously be generous to neighbors with less. Pearl's precious Meemaw lives with the family, and between her and Pearl's mom, Pearl is being taught how to act like a lady, especially a Christian one. Like most ten year old's, Pearl is navigating that area between a child's world of innocence and an adult's world of responsibility. Sometimes she hears things she does not quite understand and the not understanding weighs heavily on her. As for responsibilities, Pearl's greatest one is keeping track of her older sister Beanie, who is mentally slow and a definite wanderer. There is a special connection between Pearl and her sheriff father. Even quieter than Atticus in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Sheriff Spence is both Pearl's protector, hero, and her moral compass.

If you've ever seen Dorothea Lange's photos of Depression era mothers and children, you will have no problem imagining Mrs. Jones and her son Ray. They live in a soddy not too far from the Pence's and Ray is Pearl's best friend, while Mrs. Jones relies on doing the Spence's laundry for the family's meager income. With each beating from her broken, useless husband, every sand-filled cough from her infant daughter and every inch of growth on Ray's frail frame, Mrs. Jones becomes more and more discouraged until no hope remains. Their's is a story where you wished the author did not need to be so authentic. Young Pearl (and everyone else for that matter) witnesses the abuse within the Jones's soddy, but even the sheriff feels that nothing can be done to intervene in "a man's home," so the family is quietly helped by Mrs. Pence's charity, but by nothing else.

I believe if this novel has simply been a tale of the Spence's survival during the Depression, it would have offered plenty -- the fight against death of their town by desertion, the endless dust storms and cleaning, the fight against the jackrabbits, the slaughtering of the cattle, and so on. But A CUP OF DUST offers more -- a stranger who for some reason seems to know Pearl's name and whose very presence frightens the little girl. When others begin to accept him, and when even her mother and father begin to trust Eddie, Pearl cannot understand why. As Pearl's dreams turn into nightmares and Eddie seems to be at the center of all of them, Pearl must find a way to make her family understand her fears. Finkbeiner has used her lifelong fascination with the Dust Bowl to write a strong novel. I hope she has many more stories left to tell. I received a copy of this title from Kregel Publications for review purposes. All views are mine.

Impressive Reality Based Novel! by Nancee on 10/29/2015

Without a doubt, A Cup of Dust is one of the most captivating and impressive reality-based novels I have read to date. This is a story to be absorbed. Pearl's journey is thought-provoking and gripping, a heartrending and emotional journey through oppressive conditions caused by relentless, merciless dust. The author has researched her topic thoroughly, and weaves a haunting tale of Pearl's youth and the atrocities that she witnessed and experienced. The realities of the Oklahoma's Dust Bowl were oppressive and grievous.

Detailed and pictorial depictions revealed the enormity of the conditions in that area, where the earth was depleted and the rains never came. The dust ultimately took the lives of many, and caused others an unending fight for life. Pearl and her family exemplify the strength of the human spirit through events I can't imagine. Atrocities invaded Pearl's worst nightmares, as well as the barbarities that affected her youth and innocence.

Character portrayals are described in depth with a familiarity and sensitivity that is tangible. I loved Pearl from the very beginning, and heard her voice throughout this extraordinarily touching novel.

A Cup of Dust is written with passion and eloquence, mature attributes of this young author. I will undoubtedly read it again. It is a novel of epic proportion. Thought provoking and intense, you'll want to slowly absorb Pearl's story. I couldn't begin reading another book until my mind finished processing the intensity of this composition.

FYI: There is some violence depicted in this book that may offend some readers; however, this is reality fiction and without those scenes the story would not be complete.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. All expressed opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.

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