I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by CelebrateLit. I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.Devil in the Dust by Cara Luecht
Published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas on April 3rd 2017
Genres: Christian, Fiction, Historical
June 1933 Their small Oklahoma town is dying. Lillian remembers how acres and acres of wheat once waved under jewel-blue skies. Now the dirt stretches across the flat land as far as she can see. Emma's husband is missing. She keeps house, keeps her five children fed as best as she can, and keeps smiling as her hope fades. But when the days stretch to weeks, she faces the possibility that he will never come home. Left with the likelihood of losing their farm, and the ever-present pangs of hunger, she is forced to consider opportunities that, under normal circumstances, she would never contemplated. Jessie, Emma's oldest daughter, completes her tasks as if numb. Forced to wear her mother's shoes to avoid the humiliation of bare feet, she watches the dead, dirt road for signs of life. And then he comes. His new car and shiny shoes and generous way with gifts and money catch Jessie's eye, much to the dismay of her mother ... and much to the concern of the minister's wife, Lillian. He's too smooth, too willing to help, and much too eager to spend time with a girl less than half his age. But who is to say he is not the miracle they all prayed for?
Let me provide you a cautionary tale of book reviews, best friends, and Sims. My book bestie, Kristin, spent last weekend trying to convince me to play Sims. There may have been some sing-songy coaxing, some allusion to a Sims blog post I ‘had‘ to put up, and slight coercion. There may have been suggestions that this particular review wasn’t due for several more days and I had plenty of time. There may have been protests (by me) but I fell for the lines and well… That leads us to late Wednesday night fighting with myself and swearing I’ll never listen to her again as I try to finish this book for tomorrow. My latest (and soon to change again) work schedule gets me home later than I have time to do the necessary things before my preferred bedtime. This makes reading take doubly long during the week. Man, though I can hit it out of the park on my days off! I don’t like being in this situation as I like to have breathing room between books. And this book deserves breathing room because it is absolutely so well written and so well steeped into the Dust Bowl that I felt the grit on my skin and the sear of the sun and even the same brownness that would have enveloped everything.
I was drawn to this book for several reasons but the main one is personal. My daddy was born in the summer of 1939 outside of Muskogee, Oklahoma. Born as the 4th of 5 children he is by definition a dust bowl baby. While his immediate life was not impacted, his family was. Growing up fish was not served in our house. I’ve seen him eat salmon a few times but when he was growing up they ate a lot of whatever fish Pa (his dad) caught in the river each day. He was done, sick, completely over fish as a desirable food source. In 1933 Jessie and her family had no way of knowing that the two years they had already struggled would not soon come to an end. At at 16 years old she had no way of knowing, or even discerning, the face of evil. Probably most people in small town Oklahoma didn’t. It’s most likely not something they’d personally met before. You know that feeling in your soul when something doesn’t feel right? Believe it. Every. Single. Time. I’d rather err on the side of caution than be caught unaware like the characters in this story.
Like I said before this book is so well written, so amazingly steeped in finding faith when there is nothing else. Finding grace and even hope when the rain and the grass and even the sun feels conspired against you. And like a slow-paced, heat scorched day this book was so slow-paced as well. I struggled to read more than a few chapters at a time because I kept waiting for the pace to pick up. Even the wind whipped storms felt slow. When the action did finally come to pass at the very end of the book it was dealt with so cleanly that it wasn’t able to add to the pace of the story. That’s my only complaint. The pace was so sluggish that reading became sluggish. However, I’d totally read this book again and I’m interested in checking out more by this author as well. You don’t even have to be a fan of historical fiction to embrace this book. It’s backdrop feels fresh and inviting, despite the dust and dirt. I’ve not come across a lot of fiction written during this time period but I’d definitely like to see more.