A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowlby Susie Finkbeiner
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
Where you come from isn’t who you are
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 needand 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.
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.
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A Cup of Dust
A Novel of the Dust Bowl
By Susie Finkbeiner
Kregel PublicationsCopyright © 2015 Susie Finkbeiner
All rights reserved.
Red River, Oklahoma September 1934
As soon as I was off the porch and out of Mama's sight, I pushed the scuffed-up, hole-in-the-soles Mary Janes off my feet. They hurt like the dickens, bending and cramping my toes and rubbing blisters on my heels. Half the dirt in Oklahoma sifted in when I wore those shoes, tickling my skin through thin socks before shaking back out. When I was nine they had fit just fine, those shoes. But once I turned ten they'd gotten tight all the sudden. I hadn't told Mama, though. She would have dipped into the pennies and nickels she kept in an old canning jar on the bottom of her china cabinet. She would have counted just enough to buy a new pair of shoes from Mr. Smalley's grocery store.
I didn't want her taking from that money. That was for a rainy day, and we hadn't had anything even close to a rainy day in about forever.
Red River was on the wrong side of No Man's Land in the Panhandle. The skinny part of Oklahoma, I liked to say. If I spit in just the right direction, I could hit New Mexico. If I turned just a little, I'd get Colorado. And if I spit to the south, I'd hit Texas. But ladies didn't spit. Not ever. That's what Mama always said.
I leaned my hip against the lattice on the bottom of our porch. Rolling off my socks, I kept one eye on the front door just in case Mama stepped out. She was never one for whupping like some mothers were, but she had a look that could turn my blood cold. And that look usually had a come-to-Jesus meeting that followed close behind it.
She didn't come out of the house, though, so I shoved the socks into my shoes and pushed them under the porch.
Bare feet slapping against hard-as-rock ground felt like freedom. Careless, rebellious freedom. The way I imagined an Indian girl would feel racing around tepees in the days before Red River got piled up with houses and ranches and wheat. The way things were before people with white faces and bright eyes moved on the land.
I was about as white faced and bright eyed as it got. My hair was the kind of blond that looked more white than yellow. Still, I pretended my pale braids were ink black and that my skin was dark as a berry, darkened by the sun.
Pretending to be an Indian princess, I ran, feeling the open country's welcome.
If Mama had been watching, she would have told me to slow down and put my shoes back on. She surely would have gasped and shook her head if she knew I was playing Indian. Sheriff's daughters were to be ladylike, not running wild as a savage.
Mama didn't understand make-believe, I reckoned. As far as I knew she thought imagination was only for girls smaller than me. "I would've thought you'd be grown out of it by now," she'd say.
I hadn't grown out of my daydreams, and I didn't reckon I would. So I just kept right on galloping, pretending I rode bareback on a painted pony like the one I'd seen in one of Daddy's books.
Meemaw asked me many-a-time why I didn't play like I was some girl from the Bible like Esther or Ruth. If they'd had a bundle of arrows and a strong bow I would have been more inclined to put on Mama's old robe and play Bible times.
I slowed my trot a bit when I got to the main street. A couple ladies stood on the sidewalk, talking about something or another and waving their hands around. I thought they looked like a couple birds, chirping at each other. The two of them noticed me and smiled, nodding their heads.
"How do, Pearl?" one of them asked.
"Hello, ma'am," I answered and moved right along.
Across the street, I spied Millard Young sitting on the courthouse steps, his pipe hanging out of his mouth. He'd been the mayor of Red River since before Daddy was born. I didn't know his age, exactly, but he must have been real old, as many wrinkles as he had all over his face and the white hair on his head. He waved me over and smiled, that pipe still between his lips. I galloped to him, knowing that if I said hello he'd give me a candy.
Even Indian princesses could enjoy a little something sweet every now and again.
With times as hard as they were for folks, Millard always made sure he had something to give the kids in town. Mama had told me he didn't have any grandchildren of his own, which I thought was sad. He would have made a real good grandpa. I would have asked him to be mine but didn't know if that would make him feel put upon. Mama was always getting after me for putting upon folks.
"Out for a trot?" he asked as soon as I got closer to the bottom of the stairs.
"Yes, sir." I climbed up a couple of the steps to get the candy he offered.
It was one of those small pink ones that tasted a little like mint-flavored medicine. I popped it in my mouth and let it sit there, melting little by little. "Thank you."
He winked and took the pipe back out of his lips. It wasn't lit. I wondered why he had it if he wasn't puffing tobacco in and out of it.
"Looking for your sister?" His lips hardly moved when he talked. It made me wonder what his teeth looked like. I'd known him my whole life and couldn't think of one time that I'd seen his teeth. "Seen her about half hour ago, headed that-a-way." He nodded out toward the sharecroppers' cabins.
"Thank you," I said with a smile.
"Hope you catch her soon," he said, wrinkling his forehead even more.
"Her wandering off like that makes me real nervous."
"I'll find her. I always do," I called over my shoulder, picking up my gallop. "Thanks for the candy."
"That's all right." He nodded at me. "Watch where you're going."
I turned and headed toward the cabins, hoping to find my sister there but figuring she'd wandered farther out than that.
My sister was born Violet Jean Spence, but nobody called her that. We all just called her Beanie and nobody could remember why exactly. Daddy had told me that Beanie was born blue and not able to catch a breath. He'd said he had never prayed so hard for a baby to start crying. Finally, when she did cry and catch a breath, she turned from blue to bright pink. Violet Jean. The baby born blue as her name. Just thinking on it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
When I needed to find Beanie, I knew to check the old ranch not too far outside town. My sister loved going out there, being under the wide-open sky. I was sure that if a duster hit, God would know to look for her at that ranch, too. Meemaw had told me that God could see us no matter where we went, even through all the dust. I really hoped that was true for Beanie's sake.
Meemaw had told me more than once that God saved us from the dust. So I figured He was sure to see me even if Pastor said the dust was God being mad at us all.
In the flat pasture, cattle lowed, pushing their noses into the dust, searching out the green they weren't like to find. I expected I'd find Beanie standing at the fence-line, hands behind her back so as to remember not to touch the wire. Usually she'd be there looking off over the field, eyes glazed over, not putting her focus on anything in particular.
Daddy said she acted so odd because of the way she was born. She could see and hear everything around her. But when it came to understanding, that was a different thing altogether.
I found Beanie at the ranch, all right. But instead of looking out at the pasture, she was sitting in the dirt, her dress pulled all the way up to her waist, showing off her underthings in a way Mama would never have approved of. Mama would have rushed over and told Beanie to put her knees together, keep her skirt down, and sit like a lady. I didn't think my sister knew what any of that meant.
Being a lady was just one item on the laundry list of things my sister couldn't figure out. I wondered how much that grieved Mama.
Mama had told me Beanie was slow. Daddy called her simple. Folks around town said she was an idiot. I'd gotten in more than one fight over a kid calling my sister a name like that. Meemaw had said those folks didn't understand and that people sometimes got mean over what they didn't understand.
"It ain't no use fighting them," she had told me. "One of these days they'll figure out that we've got a miracle walking around among us."
Our own miracle, sitting on the ground grunting and groaning and playing in dirt.
"Beanie." I bent at the waist once I got up next to her. My braids swung over my shoulders. "We gotta go home."
The tip of Beanie's nose stayed pointed at the space between her spread out legs. Somehow she'd gotten herself a tin cup. Its white-and-blue enamel was chipped all the way around, and I figured it was old. She found things like that in the empty houses around town. Goodness knew there were plenty of abandoned places for her to explore around Red River. Half the houses in Oklahoma stood empty. Everybody had took up and moved west, leaving busted-up treasures for Beanie to find.
She'd hide them from Mama under our bed or in our closet. Old, tattered scraps of cloth, a busted up hat, a bent spoon. Everything she found was a treasure to her. To the rest of us, it was nothing but more junk she'd hide away.
"You hear me?" I asked, tapping her shoulder. "We gotta go."
She kept on digging in the dirt with that old cup like it was a shovel. Once she got it to overflowing, she held it in front of her face and tipped it, pouring it out. The grains of sand caught in the air, blowing into her face. I stood upright, pulling the collar of my dress over my face to block out the dust. She just didn't care — she let it get in her mouth and nose and eyes.
"That's not good for you," I said. "Don't do that anymore."
Little noises came out her mouth from deep inside her. Nothing anybody would have understood, though. Mostly it was nothing more than short grunts and groans. Meemaw liked to think the angels in heaven spoke that same, hard tongue just for Beanie. Far as I knew it was nothing but nonsense. Beanie was sixteen years old and making noises like a two-year-old. She could talk as well as anybody else, she just didn't want to most of the time.
"Get up. Mama's waiting on us." I grabbed hold of her arm and pulled.
"Put that old cup down, and let's go."
Scooping a cup of dust, she finally looked at me. Not in my eyes, though, she wouldn't have done that. Instead, she looked at my chin and smiled before dumping the whole cupful on my foot.
Some days I just hated my sister so hard.
"I seen a horny toad," Beanie said, pushing against the ground to stand herself up. She stopped and leaned over, her behind in the air, to refill the cup. "It had blood coming out its eyes, that horny toad did."
"So what." I took her hand. Scratchy palmed, she left her hand limp in mine, not making the effort to hold me back. "Mama's gonna be sore if we don't get home."
"Must've been scared of me. That toad squirted blood outta its eye right at me. Didn't get none on me though." She looked down at her dress to make sure as she shuffled her feet, kicking up dust. Her shoes were still on, tied up tight on her feet so she wouldn't lose them.
Mama moaned many-a-day about how neither of her girls liked to keep shoes on.
"That toad wasn't scared of you," I said. "Those critters just do that."
We took a few steps, only making it a couple yards before Beanie stopped.
"Duster's coming." Dark-as-night hair frizzed out of control on her head, falling to her shoulders as she looked straight up. Her big old beak of a nose pointed at the sky. "You feel it?"
"Nah. I don't feel anything."
Her long tongue pushed between thin lips making her look like a lizard. Her stink stung my nose when she raised both of her arms straight up over her head. She would have stayed like that the rest of the day if I hadn't pulled her hand back down and tugged her to follow behind me.
After a minute or two she stopped again. "You feel that poke?" she asked.
"Just come on." Hard as I yanked on her arm, I couldn't get her to budge.
Goose pimples bumped up on her arms. Then I felt them rise on mine. A buzzing, fuzzing, sharp feeling on my skin caught the breath in my lungs.
The same feeling we always got before a dust storm rolled through.
"We gotta get home." Finally, my pulling got her to move, to run, even.
Flapping of wings and twittering of voice, a flock of birds flew over us, going the opposite way. They always knew when a roller was coming, all the birds and critters did. Beanie did, too. I wondered if she was part animal for the way she knew things like that.
We stopped and watched the birds. Beanie's coal black eyes and my clear blue, watching the frantic flying. Beanie squeezed my hand, like we really were sisters and not just one girl watching over the other. For a quick minute, I felt kin to her.
Most of the time I just felt the yoke of her pushing me low, weighing about as much as all the dust in Oklahoma.
* * *
The winds whipped around us, and a mountain of black dirt rolled along, chasing behind us. Making our way in a straight path was near impossible, so we followed the lines of wire fence, watching the electric air pop blue sparks above the barbs. We got home and up the porch steps just in time. Mama was watching for us, waving for us to get up the steps. Reaching out, she pulled me in by the hand, our skin catching static, jolting all the way through me and into Beanie.
Just as soon as we were inside, Mama closed and bolted the door. "It's a big one," she said, shoving a towel into the space between the door and the floor.
"Praise the Lord you girls didn't get yourselves lost," Meemaw said, stepping up close and examining our faces. "You got any blisters? Last week I seen one of the sharecropper kids with blisters all over his body from the dust, even where his clothes covered his skin. And we didn't have nothing to soothe them, did we, Mary?"
"We did not." Mama moved around the room, busying herself preparing for the storm.
The nearest doctor was in Boise City, a good two-hour drive from Red River, three if the dust was thick. When folks couldn't get to the city or didn't have money to pay, they'd come to Meemaw and Mama. I thought it was mostly because they had a cabinet full of medicines in our house. Meemaw'd said, though, that it was on account of Mama had taken a year of nurses' training before she met Daddy.
"That poor boy. We had to clean out them sores with lye soap. I do believe it stung him something awful." Meemaw shook her head. "Mary, did we put in a order for some of that cream?"
"I did." Mama plunged a sheet into the sink and pulled it out, letting it drip on the floor. "Pearl, would you please help me? This is the last one to hang."
We hung the sheet over the big window in the living room. Mama's shoes clomped as she moved back from the window. My naked feet patted. I remembered my shoes, still under the porch. I crisscrossed my feet, one on top of the other, hoping she wouldn't notice.
"You can dig them out in the morning," Mama said, lifting an eyebrow at me.
Mama never did miss a blessed thing.
Rumbling wind pelted the house with specks of dirt and small stones. Mama pulled me close into her soft body.
"Don't be scared," she said, her voice gentle. "It'll be over soon."
Then the dust darkened the whole world.
Wind roared, shaking the windows and rattling doors. It pushed against the house from all sides like it wanted to blow us into the next county. I believed one day it would.
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.
Dust and dark married, creating a pillow to smother hard on our faces.
Pastor had always said that God sent the dust to fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike because of His great goodness. I didn't know if there were any righteous folk anymore. Seemed everybody had given over to surviving the best they knew how. They had put all the holy church talk outside with the dust.
Still, I couldn't help but imagine that the dust was one big old whupping from the very hand of God.
I wondered how good we'd all have to be to get God to stop being so angry at us.
Pastor'd also said it was a bad thing to question God. If it was a sin, sure as lying or stealing busted-up cups or tarnished spoons, I didn't want any part of it. I didn't want to be the reason the dust storms kept on coming.
I decided to fold myself into my imagination instead of falling into sin. I pretended the wind was nothing more than the breath of the Big Bad Wolf, come to blow our brick house down. Problem was, no amount of hairs on our chiny chin chins could refuse to let it in. Prayers and hollering didn't do a whole lot either, as far as I could tell.
Excerpted from A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner. Copyright © 2015 Susie Finkbeiner. Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet 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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I couldn't put it down.
The dark times of our country’s history aren’t always the easiest to read, but I don’t think that means we don’t learn, read or remember what many folks went through decades ago. This piece of history of Oklahoma in the 1930s, specifically the Dust Bowl is one such time. I’ll confess, most of this novel had me sad. What a harsh time to live in, not only because of the natural harsh times, but the reality of what people can do when in times of desperation. But Susie Finkbeiner does an excellent job of bringing the history to life and showing there is still hope and goodness is dark times. I have a much greater understanding of that time period. I also enjoyed the storyline and hearing it from young Pearl’s voice. The story being told from a young girl’s perspective added another layer I appreciated. There were some parts where the pacing was a bit slow, but overall I enjoyed the story and conclusion. Do you know much about the Dust Bowl? Originally posted at: http://booksandbeverages.org/2016/08/11/cup-dust-susie-finkbeiner-book-review/
A Cup of Dust is an engaging tale by Susie Finkbeiner. Through the eyes of a sweet, ten-year-old girl, Pearl, the reader experiences the harsh life of the Dust Bowl in the 30’s in Oklahoma. Her father’s job as town sheriff allows her to know the very real struggles and hardship of people there. Poverty and hopelessness bring out the worst, and sometimes the best, in those trying to survive. Pearl is secure and safe in her family and life until the day a mysterious stranger arrives and brings confusion and pain into their midst. From their first encounter this stranger knows her name and hints at things he knows about her. Scared and intimidated by him, Pearl at first keeps this from her family, especially when those close to her seem to show sympathy to him. I recommend this poignant story that shows a dark and difficult time in our country’s history. I received this book through TBCN in exchange for an honest review.
I could not put this book down. I've thought about the story for days after finishing it. If you love historical fiction, you'll love thus.
Pearl, her sister Beanie, her parents, and the town of Red River are suffering through the Great Depression while living (if one can call it living) within the Dust Bowl of the United States. All day long, the dust permeates their clothes, their homes, and their lives until many can no longer stand living in Red River. Pearl and her family are doing what they can to help those in need during this trying time, but a new danger has come to Red River. Will Pearl, her family, and the town of Red River survive this new threat that will change Pearl's life forever? A really good book that included a nice balance of history and fiction. I would definately recommend this book if you are interested in the Dust Bowl and/or the Great Depression.
A Cup of Dust was an excellent work of historical fiction. It covers the life in Oklahoma during the dust storms so realistically. The characters became a part of your family. It was one of those books that are hard to put down. It is full of love, family, death, disease, hardships, fear, crisis and sadness. I received the Book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
What a fabulous novel!! Being a retired fourth grade teacher, I had briefly taught from our textbook about the Dust Bowl when we covered the Midwest states. This historical novel really brought out the details of the hardships of everyday life during this time period! A Cup of Dust, written by Susie Finkbeiner, tells the story of a ten year old girl, Pearl, living in the dust stormed Oklahoma during President Franklin Roosevelt's term in office. The once prosperous area is forsaken and barren of greenery, life, and hope for most people. The president's relief trucks with staples of flour and beans helps to keep the people from starving. Being the daughter of the sheriff, Pearl has it better than most of the children left in her town. Her parents are loving and generous to others. Pearl feels good about her life until Eddie the Hobo comes into her life saying things she doesn't understand. His words and actions scare her. Who is he? How does he know her name? What does he mean by the words that he speaks? Pearl's life is getting ready to turn upside down. This is a must read for any reader who loves historical fiction! I received a copy from the author and publisher of The Book Club Network in exchange for an honest review.
A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner is an absolutely riveting story that will not let go. Readers will think about the story for a long time as it seems to seep into the soul as the dust seeped into the lives of the characters portrayed in this book. Although a fairly dispiriting tale of the Dust Bowl of the Oklahoma 1930s, the author has shown the hope-filled spirit of strong individuals and families even as they 'swallow down their sadness.' Their sadness offset by their faith that 'God is the one who saves.' The characters, whether good or evil, are marvelously depicted. Pearl, a 10-year-old who comes to realize that life is not all that it seems to be. Mama, who 'fought the dust every day and lost each time. Even so, she wouldn't give up.' Beanie, the older mentally challenged sister. Meemaw and Daddy, towers of strength and safety. Eddie, the hobo who comes to town and knows Pearl's name. The author blends these lost and abused lives, these loved and adored lives together into a story full of secrets, suspense and sadness. A Cup of Dust is heartfelt, compelling, memorable...not a book to be missed. I received a copy of this book through The Book Club Network (bookfun.org) in exchange for my honest review.
Every once in a while, a novel so captures what historical fiction is supposed to be, a book must go on the 'must read' list of every person. A snapshot of what it was like to live in the past is exactly what 'A Cup of Dust' is. For all the bad, for all the difficulties of the 1930's in America, some beauty can arise. Finkbeiner's novel is a spellbinding as it is educational, as captivating as it is insightful. Well written, well told, this is a fantastic book!
I love historical novels and this one did not disappoint. The story is set in the 1930s in Oklahoma during the dust bowl. The story is told through the eyes of the main character, 10 year old Pearl. This character is well developed and has depth to her character. The other more minor charcters are less developed and less depth to them. They are still important to the story, but you don't feel as attached to them as to Pearl. What I liked about the book: The editing was wonderful. The language was true to the time and area. It was well researched and it shows. The characters were mostly believable. The grandma was the one person you knew was truly a Christian. That brings me to what I did not like. I did not care for the violence. I did not like the way the pastor was portrayed.
A Cup of Dust is written through the eyes of a 10 year old, wise beyond her years girl named Pearl. Set in a small Oklahoma town beset by the Dust Bowl, the book is as much about the time period as it is about the strength of Pearl and her family’s fortitude during this fraught time in history. The book is full of many interesting small town personalities, and the author’s writing helps you to get to know each of them well, from what they look and even smell like for some, to the nature of their heart, mind and soul. I appreciated the book for what I learned about the time period, and for these vivid characters that make me feel like I’m a part of the town of Red River, but mostly for how it is a story of resilience, for a girl, a family and a town. At its center, A Cup of Dust is a historical fiction book about a family secret, the revealing of it, and the healing from it. Be warned: the revealing of it is a messy and hard ordeal not for the faint of heart reader, but the book ends with bright spots of hope and healing. I appreciate how the book made me reflect on my own character: How would I react in a time of both interpersonal and historical hardship? How does my faith help me through difficult times? What role do I play in my community? I appreciate how it is a story that doesn’t shy away from the difficult, while it delicately celebrates the strength of individuals, a family, and a whole community. It is real and raw and beautiful, this story, and I recommend it if you are looking for a thoughtfully deep read about a brokenhearted time, place and people. I found it to be equally full of suffering and hope, and isn’t that like life? *I received this book in exchange for an honest review from The Book Club Network. The opinions are entirely my own.*
Wow! For a book about the Dust Bowl this story has a bunch of twists! I really enjoyed not only the story but the insights to the dust bowl. What a difficult time and place to have lived! The author not only tells of the dust bowl but then she weaves a remarkable story from the eyes of a ten-year-old little girl. Pearl is the daughter of the town sheriff. Her older sister isn’t quite right in the mind but life is good for Pearl – although with the town dried up and dust always blowing life is changing. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it! I received this book from bookfun.org in return for my honest opinion.
Wonderful, Compelling Story of Dustbowl from Faith Viewpoint... "What I did see outside was Red River streets, lined by boarded-up buildings and dead dreams. Ruined fields and falling apart lives." This observation by Suzie Finkbeiner's 10 year old protagonist, Pearl Spence, leads her to the ultimate question, where is God in the bad times? She asks her Meemaw,"Is God in Oklahoma?...Or did He leave?" Finkbeiner populates her story with a variety of characters who would each answer the question differently. The preacher loudly screams at the congregation to repent, because God has brought this disaster upon them, as a result of the farmers being proud of their wheat crops of years gone by. The sheriff, according to Pearl, has a quiet faith, but steady and firm. (I would personally question the faith of someone who never felt the need to be in the presence of God's people, but then and again, I wouldn't want the faith of the preacher, who seemed very two-faced.) Mama seemed to have faith, and showed it by her generosity in caring for others. Yet it was Meemaw's quiet faith that drew Pearl, that was loving, reassuring, and lent an air of confidence that indeed God knew and cared what happened to His people. Another big theme of the book is family. What is family, how does it influence one? Is environment more important than heredity? Environment makes a HUGE difference many times in a person's life. However, I found I wanted to disagree on some level with Finkbeiner's statement:"The world was full of awful people who did terrible and ugly things. Most of them were only awful because of the scars on their hearts." The Bible says in Jeremiah that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked." We don't necessarily need any bad examples to be bad, unfortunately. The cover is perfect for this book. Unlike the Grapes of Wrath, which seemed to be totally hopeless, this novel had many hopeless parts, but through it all, the hope was presented that God could deliver. On the front cover of A Cup of Dust, the colors are mostly brown. A small rainbow of light pierces the dust to allow a narrow arc of color, just as the Spence family fought to hold onto a narrow hope that God would in fact, deliver them. Due to adult situations and subject matter, I would rate this book a PG-13. Best for upper high school and above. I had the pleasure of reading this book provided to me though bookfun.org in exchange for an honest review.
A Cup of Dust is the haunting tale of life in 1930's Depression of Oklahoma's Dust Bowl. It is told in the first person by a young girl named Pearl. She is feisty, relatable, likable, and compassionate. Pearl is the sheriff's younger daughter and lives in a house with her parents, older sister, and grandmother. Her story is gritty and captivating. It was not an easy read but it was easy to become engrossed in this raw, fact based tale. This story will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. It is an emotional story that pulls on heartstrings with raw emotions. There are happy, joyful times and desperate, nightmarish ones, too. Pearl is not a typical 10-year old; she is old for her years because of life's harsh realities. She is cute, helpful, and kind. Her family helps others generously and unselfishly. It is refreshing to read of their goodness when there is so much bad going on around them. This was the first book I have read by author Susie Finkbeiner. Her characters were all well developed, even secondary ones. It was easy to make friends and fall in love with some of them while others were downright cruel. Dialogue flowed freely and easily throughout the book making conversations enjoyable. Details about the conditions of that area in that awful time were so vivid it made me want to weep. I was introduced to a barbaric way of getting rid of certain animals or pests. This book had a generous helping of scripture and biblical references that helped ease the tension. It had suspense, mystery, drama, inspiration and history. Please note: There is violence in this book that may offend some. A couple times it was difficult for me to continue reading. It is a very well written book. The story is different from any I have read. It was an emotional read and has certainly stuck with me.
This novel is about the Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, which took place in the 1930's, both in the USA and in the prairies in Canada, and destroyed many a family as well as their land, the economy and so much more. The story is based in Oklahoma and on the Spence family consisting of the town sheriff, his wife, and their two daughters, Pearl, 10 and her older sister, Beanie, with mental impairment. Meemaw, his mother, also lives with them and her love for Jesus shines brightly on first her family, but then on all in need. They are financially better off, not rich, but have more than most, and share easily and generously with all whom need their help. Pearl loves and is proud of her family. "The only reason I was even close to good was because I'd gotten it from Mama and Daddy. Everything good inside of me was from them." pg. 38 Pearl, although 10, is much older, wiser and mature than her age and is called upon to help in a variety of situations that today we would never put a young one in, and yet she arises to the occasion each and every time. And then a stranger arrives in town, and her life takes a weird twist, as he not only knows her name but enjoys toying with her every time he runs into her. But feisty Pearl stands up as best she can until... You will have to pick up and read this fast moving, character rich, unexpected twist moving book and see for yourself what happens next. Along the way you will learn a little of the Dust Bowl, how they dealt with it, how it affected families and most of all how they trusted God through the trying times. I give this book 5 stars and although this is the first book I have read by Susie Finkbeiner, it will definitely not be my last. Thank you to the author and bookfun.org for the opportunity to read this awesome book in exchange for an honest review.
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.***
Wow! A Cup of Dust turned into quite a bit different read than I expected. It was great! I really enjoyed it and loved Pearl's character. Highly recommended! 5 plus stars. I received this book from bookfun.org in exchange for my honest opinion, which was given.
Susie Finkbeiner in her new book, “A Cup Of Dust” published by Kregel Publications gives us a Novel of the Dust Bowl. From the back cover: Where you come from isn’t who you are 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. Welcome to 1934 Red River, Oklahoma in the midst of the Dust Bowl. This is a time of history and section of the country that very few novels have tackled. Why do you think? I, for one, think it is because it is not easy. This is a coming of age story seen through the eyes of ten-year-old Pearl. There are moments of sweetness, there are moments of great fun and there are moments of tension, especially after the stranger comes to town. Ms. Finkbeiner is highly talented and keeps the story moving at a very high level of quality. Pearl and all the other people of Red River are well drawn and interesting characters. Then there is the theme of the dust storms that can cloud the sky and what happens when the stranger comes unearthing the secrets that surround Pearl. Not only will this book keep you flipping pages as fast as you can read them it will also have you asking all kinds of questions. Well d one! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications. 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.”
What an incredibly compelling novel. I’ve wanted to read this book since I first learned of its existence. I’m grateful to have read this story during the accustomed calendar time of the year of Thanksgiving. The story is beautifully told through the eyes of a loveable, kind, and courageous 10 year old girl growing up in the Panhandle of Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, or the dirty thirties, as my grandmother, who lived through the time period, refers to it. If a novel like this, based on the actual event of drought and dust, does not make you thankful and appreciative for your blessings, I’m unsure what will. 10 year old Pearl Spence is a literary character who is now imprinted in my heart. She is blessed with a loving family, living in a dried out land during hard times. She watches her friends and neighbors struggle, while witnessing her mother and grandmother giving all they have to help relieve the plight of others. Pearl’s story is not easy, but it is worthwhile. Parts of her childhood likely resonate with many of us. Hopefully her courage will do the same. I loved this story and highly recommend it. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, through The Book Club Network (bookfun.org) in exchange for my honest review.
A cup of dust signifies the state of Oklahoma during the great depression, and on top of that the dust bowl. Hugh blowing winds on drought stricken land and no one is free from the ravages and unrelenting sand, every crack and board, and unfortunately lungs are vulnerable to the grit everywhere. The story revolves around the Spence family and in particular Pearl, a precocious ten-year old, and self proclaimed watcher of her older handicapped sister. This is a girl whom has been raised to love the Lord, her elders and to help others. She is doing rather well when the book opens, her father is the sheriff and therefore has a steady job. They have food, which is lacking for so many others, but seem always ready to share. There are some dark clouds hanging over this loving family, and a surprise for Pearl, that to many know a secret about her. This is not a good secret and although her family loves her dearly, this could change her life forever. A great reminder of how lucky we are, even with all of the trials that are happening in our world, no one would want to live the way these poor people were forced to do. There is also danger lurking in the area, and sometimes you expect there might be when it seems everyone is hurting, but evil is always around. When the story ends a lot of things have been cleared up, and although nightmares still exist, the family is still unsure what is going to happen. One hundred and fifty miles to go and go and get groceries, so I do hope that there is a sequel to this story and we learn how things end up. When the dust stops, and how the new Roosevelt era helps this desolate area of Oklahoma. I received this book through Kregel Publishing Blogger Tour, and was not required to give a positive review.
After watching a documentary on the Dust Bowl, I have become very interested in it. While nothing like what these individuals experienced, I remember growing up in East Texas as a child and the small dust storms there. I can recall the grit in our home and between my teeth. I haven’t forgotten the sting of the sand as it hit my legs. As an adult I experienced a dust storm here in Oklahoma, where the sky was darkened, and the air so thick I felt I would suffocate. These small events in my life have me in awe of what the people of this era dealt with, and not for a few days but for years. This book made me realize how incredibly courageous and resilient dust bowl families were. Instead of this part of history being told through the eyes of an adult, the author does it through the eyes of 10 year old Pearl Spence. A child’s view is very simple, but it is also glaringly honest. Although Pearl does not understand everything she sees and experiences, her account is authentically candid. So vivid are the descriptions of life in this Oklahoma town that I could feel the discouragement and desperation of the characters. Her mother’s constant battle to keep her home clean and maintain a normal family life was heartrending. It is clear the large role adult’s attitudes and actions play in how a child handles a crisis. Pearl’s grandmother, mother, and father were an anchor for her in this unsettled time. I better understood the despair and fear of never knowing when another dust storm would strike or when the nightmare would end. The author was brilliant with the way she took amazing historical details, brought to life powerful characters, and then created a story filled with danger, mystery, and excitement. A fantastic read!
"A Cup of Dust" is incredibly captivating and gripping. It was so hard to put down. My heart was wrenched as I read this book about the reality of Oklahoma Dust Bowl. Pearl is fierce, relentless and completely a character you can't help but fall in love with, as a reader. I love Pearl and her sweet sense in the book, but we see her strength despite being only ten years old. I wish you could just jump into this book with her. My heart is just grappled by this sweet girl whose innocence was robbed in many ways. Having never read a book by Susie Finkbeiner, I was absolutely blown away by the character depth, the incredible research and the ability of a story teller. Wow! This book continues to stay with me even as I'm finished with it. The story is incredible and more than I can just stick into words for a review because the emotion is raw, intense and at times violent. The reality is that these people needed a Savior. You may have to stop at times to let this book sink in, but Susie does a great job at taking the raw moments and relieving the reader with more less intense moments to keep a well balanced book, which helps the reader from feeling depressed. This book will have you coming back until you're finished. This is a book of 2015 you CANNOT miss! I would not be surprised if this book picks up some awards! Very well done, Mrs. Finkbeiner! You have me as a reader for life! Disclaimer: This book does have some violence, which may be off putting to reader or offend, but this in my opinion, the book would not be what it is without these scenes. I hope to see more work and even a potential sequel of some sorts.
I think as an adult I appreciate history more now that when I was in school. Perhaps it's because I realize that the things that happened in our past are not simply stories in a history book but truly impacted the lives of the people who had to endure them. Yet when we look back into our history books, very little was written about the Dust Bowl. We know how it came to be but not really how it impacted all those families who had to sit back and hope that things would change somehow and their lives would pick back up again if they got rain. Susie Finkbeiner under the inspiration of such stories written by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, took her research a bit further to really understand the implications of living during that time, just on the heels of the Great Depression and just before the second World War in Oklahoma in her novel A Cup of Dust. This is not for the light-hearted. It really takes the story of ten-year-old Pearl Spence and showcases how life looked from her perspective. Knowing that her family was better off than most since her father was the town's sheriff, her mother always made sure to help those out whenever she could, from baking bread to unexpectedly paying off the bills at the grocery store of those just barely making ends meet. Living with her older sister Violet Jean, but everyone simply called her Beanie, as she was born a bit mentally challenged from being denied oxygen during her birth. Pearl's job is to keep track of Beanie who has a tendency to wander off without telling anyone. Her grandmother, Meemaw is her hope and inspiration and keeps the families faith going against the odds. The one thing they can never manage to do is keep their home free from dust. It is everywhere and at odd times of the day or night, dust storms could kick up and plunge the skies into darkness. Most people have moved on to better opportunities out west but the Spence family believes God will save them soon. It isn't until a hobo departs a train one day with the knowledge of knowing Pearl, that the family will be plunged into a darkness greater than any dust storm could create. I received A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner compliments of Kregel Publications for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation, aside from a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. There is parts of this novel that are a bit graphic and disturbing that might bother sensitive readers, but I would encourage you to hold out to the end to see how it all plays out. I almost put it down at that point, but pushed on to see how it might turn out in the end. Life is like that at times, sometimes wishing we could simply close our eyes and wish it was different, but I applaud the author for carrying it through so we can understand the motivation behind one character's action and how it impacted Pearl. For me I would rate this one a 4 out of 5 stars in my opinion. A reader's discussion guide is included at the conclusion of this novel.
Many times I wanted to cry throughout this novel. Pearl and Beanie and their parents are so memorable. I had the chance to feel what it was like to live in the Dust Bowl of the Depression while in Red River, Oklahoma. The tragedies endured by this family and their friends are unthinkable. Pearl watched her friends go through awful abuse. Pearl wondered why her dad, the sheriff, didn't have enough power to rescue Ray from his family. A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl by Susie Finkbeiner is excellent. I would love to know how the author was able to put her heart on paper. Did she wet the pages with tears? I have wet my pages. On the back of the book titled A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner, there is a book review written by a man who describes himself as a Dust Bowl survivor. When I read his name and review, I discovered many good reasons to read about the "Dirty Thirties." What was the Dust Bowl really like? Did faith or something else play a part in the families getting through each day? What did a dugout look like? I never realized dust could cause a major natural disaster. One baby, Rosie, died after swallowing so much dust everyday. Cups and glasses were turned over on the table so that the table utensils wouldn't fill up with dust. There were terrible storms called dusters.kregel.com/fiction/a-cup-of-dust/ susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com/tag/a-cup-of-dust/