Under a Cloudless Sky

Under a Cloudless Sky

by Chris Fabry


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A charming and engrossing novel for fans of Southern fiction and the recent hit memoir Hillbilly Elegy about a lush and storied coal-mining town—and the good people who live there—in danger of being destroyed for the sake of profit. Will the truth about the town’s past be its final undoing or its saving grace?

1933. In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers—one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner —Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean’s mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004. Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He’ll pay homage to the past—even the massacre of 1933—while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414387789
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 01/09/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 322,483
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt



Ruby and Bean met in the summer of 1933 in a town called Beulah Mountain, in the southwestern coalfields of West Virginia, shortly before the massacre that has become a footnote in some history books. When people speak of that time, they talk of red and black. Blood was the price paid and coal was the prize. Miners' families were collateral damage in a war against the earth itself, a battle fought with pick and TNT.

There are a thousand places to begin the story. Ruby and Bean's first meeting ... Bean's big regret ... where her name came from ... the shock when they discovered what was happening on the third floor of the company store. But there is another memory that floats to the surface and sits on the water like a katydid on a lily pad. The memory is wrapped in music and preaching and two friends tripping through the underbrush, hand in hand, giggling, and for a moment without a care in the world, the hurt and pain of life dismissed.

Ruby held on to Bean like a tight-eyed, newborn kitten, more afraid to let go than to hang on. She didn't know the hills like her friend, and the speed Bean gathered frightened Ruby. It is a grace to be able to hold on to someone who runs at life when you can only imagine walking.

"Slow down," Ruby said without a drawl, with a hint of northern refinement. To those in Beulah Mountain, Ruby sounded uppity, like she was putting on airs, and there were some in the congregation who questioned whether this daughter of a mine owner belonged in their church. Some thought she might be spying and trying to get information about the union rumors.

Ruby wore the dress her mother had picked from a catalog, a dress she only wore on Sundays and late at night when she couldn't sleep. This dress, other than the pictures and jewelry and sweet-smelling memorabilia she kept in a box on her dresser, was the last connection with her mother. The woman's voice was fading from memory, which troubled Ruby, though the fine contours of her mother's face and the rich brown hair and long eyelashes were still there when she closed her eyes.

Ruby's fingernails were finely trimmed and her hair shone in the sunlight as it bounced and wiggled in curls down her back. She wore pink ribbons that Mrs. Grigsby had positioned for her. Mrs. Grigsby, the wife of the company store proprietor, had been hired to watch Ruby and keep her from children who lived on the other side of the tracks, a task Mrs. Grigsby had failed at miserably. Like water and coal slurry, children will find their own worthy level and pool.

It is a fine thing to see two hearts beat as one. And the hearts of Ruby and Bean did that. Their friendship raised eyebrows at the beginning, of course, but in the summer of 1933, as the church bell rang, Bean pulled Ruby a little harder and their shoes slid down the bank through the ferns and rhododendrons and saplings and onto the path that led toward the white church with the people streaming in from all sides of the mountain.

"I swear," Bean said, "this church is the most excitement I have all week. It's the only reason to stay in this town."

"You'll be here until the day you die, Bean, and you know it," Ruby said.

"Will not," Bean said. "I'm going to see the world. And take my mama with me. These hills can't hold me."

"Slow down!"

Bean's shoes were held together with sea-grass string and prayer. Her fingernails were bit to the quick and dirty from gathering coal for the cookstove and plucking chickens and digging worms for fishing. Bean — given name Beatrice — was lean and tall for a twelve-year-old, and she had seen more than her share of pain. She had helped bury two brothers and a sister who had never given so much as a single cry. She had held her mother's hand and comforted her when her father wasn't around.

"Don't never run for the doctor again," her mother had said after the last stillborn child. "You've got to promise me."

"Why, Mama?"

"That man don't care a whit for people like us," she said. "He just makes it harder. Next time I'm sick, don't you get him. You hear?"

Bean had promised but didn't understand the ramifications of such a thing and the turmoil it might bring.

Ruby was older than Bean, but not much. Bean was a lot stronger and tougher and her exterior was as rough as a cob (she ran barefoot most days). There could not be two girls on the planet who were from more different families, and yet, here they were.

"Hold up," Bean said when they reached the edge of the woods.

Ruby was out of breath and welcomed the pause. "What is it?"

"Look there."

Ruby saw movement and peered through the underbrush at an animal. Elegant. Stately. When its head passed a wide tree, she saw it was a deer.

"Ain't it beautiful?" Bean said.

"Will he hurt us?" Ruby whispered.

"It's a she and she probably has young ones. I'm glad my daddy isn't here or he'd shoot her quick as look at her. We'd have venison for dinner but the view here wouldn't be half as pretty."

The deer stopped and looked straight at Ruby and Bean.

"Stay real still," Bean whispered. "Deer know things people don't."

"What do you mean?" Ruby said. When she turned her head, the deer jumped and ran quickly into the brush.

Bean sighed. "They see things you and I can't. If I could have been born as anything else, I'd have chosen a deer."

Music from the old piano in the church lifted over the valley and Bean picked up her pace again. The heat and humidity of summer made the piano keys stick, but she recognized the introduction to her favorite hymn.

"Come on, we're going to miss 'Beulah,'" she said.

Though the church tried to keep the piano in tune, summer was hard on the instrument and winter was worse. Those occupying the pews sang louder each week to overcome the weathering effects on the Franklin upright. The piano's story was rich — Bean's father said it had been rescued and redeemed from a saloon in Matewan a few years prior, and before that it was used in a Chicago brothel that Al Capone had frequented and the bullet holes in the right side had been made by Bugs Moran. All of these stories seemed too wild for anyone but Ruby and Bean to believe, though neither knew what a "brothel" was. That a piano could be rescued and redeemed in a church felt like something God would do.

Benches creaked and snapped as the congregation stood, and nasal voices rose in unison as the girls neared the wooden steps. Bean let go of her friend's hand, grabbed the iron railing, and catapulted to the top and through the door where an older man with only a few teeth looked down. Sopranos strained to overcome the off-key male voices.

"Far away the noise of strife upon my ear is falling; Then I know the sins of earth beset on every hand; Doubt and fear and things of earth in vain to me are calling; None of these shall move me from Beulah Land."

Bean rushed past women waving fans and men who had freshly shaved and washed away as much coal dust as they could. She found her mother in her usual spot and the woman drew her in with one arm as Ruby joined them, out of breath but smiling.

"I'm living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky, I'm drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry; Oh, yes! I'm feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply, For I am dwelling in Beulah Land."

Not every church service began with this hymn, but at some point on either Sunday morning or Sunday evening, the congregation raised its voice in praise to the God who allowed them to live in Beulah Mountain and long for their heavenly home.

Ruby had never heard such singing before moving to Beulah Mountain. She had taken piano lessons early and could read music on the page, a feat that amazed Bean. But what happened when these people sang was more than just humans hitting notes. The music seemed to come from somewhere deep inside and when their voices united, it felt like goose bumps on the soul. Something like joy bubbled up from inside her and leaked through her eyes.

When they had sung the requisite number of choruses and verses, the pews creaked again from the weight of slight men and women and their children. There were soft coughs that would be termed silicosis in the years ahead, but for now it was simply a "coughing spell." Ruby burrowed herself under Bean's mother's arm and Bean did the same on the other side. Though it was hot and muggy, and the pregnant woman between them would have been more comfortable being left alone, she spread her wings like a mother hen.

The pastor was a thick man with thin hair slicked back. He looked like a miner who had moved toward ministry, but he talked with a wheeze and Ruby sat enraptured by his words and the readings from the King James Bible that lay open on the pulpit in front of him. His name was printed on the bulletin at the bottom, H. G. Brace, and Ruby thought it humble of him that his name was so low on the page.

The text this day was from the book of Exodus, about the plight of the Israelites enslaved by cruel Pharaoh and the Egyptians who used the Israelites for their own devices, having forgotten all that Joseph had done. Joseph had interpreted the dream of Pharaoh and had saved the Egyptians, but a new leader had arisen who either didn't know the story or didn't care. Pastor Brace reminded them that Joseph's brothers had meant to do him evil, but God brought good from it and could do the same in their lives.

There was a smattering of amens in the room, followed by more crusty coughing. As the pastor continued, Ruby leaned forward and noticed a commotion coming through the open windows. There was noise down the railroad tracks. The pastor continued until they heard the audible voices of miners shouting for help.


Excerpted from "Under a Cloudless Sky"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Chris Fabry.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
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.

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Under a Cloudless Sky 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Kaitlyn Smith More than 1 year ago
This was a beautiful telling of a coal mining town, choices adults and children had made, and the consequences of those decisions as they grow older. The pace was a bit slower than some of his other books, I thought, but I enjoyed it — and there were just as many plot twists that left me scratching my head in perplexity. The point of view switches around quite a bit, which I found a bit confusing at first — but after the first couple of chapters I caught on. It goes from 2004, to 1933, to 2004, back to 1933…….and every single bit of information is vital to the story. And the ending…..oh the ending was marvelously perfect! The historical parts from 1933 were a wonderful eulogy of bygone days. The details of common, everyday life were beautifully chronicled, and the old hymns that were included were sweet to read over. Yes, I researched them, and one day, perhaps, I will learn them on the piano and introduce the children in our church to them :D There were a couple of intense scenes, and for that reason I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers. There were a couple of fights (it was a coal mining town!), and one gun fight that was detailed. It was an essential part of the story, and the details given weren’t too gory, but it was suspenseful and you definitely weren’t left wondering what happened. I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review All thoughts are my own.
GrandaddyA More than 1 year ago
The title catches your attention and then you learn the focal point of the story is West Virginia coal mining country. Cloudless and coal seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. An elderly lady living in central Kentucky in 2004 is remembering the brief time she lived in Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, in 1933 with her father, who was the co-owner of the coal mining company and the general store. When she lived there as a young teen, the whole world seemed cloudy. Meanwhile back in Beulah Mountain, the grandson of the other co-owner is trying to buy out everyone living on the mountain so the coal company can expand its operations and use massive machinery to mine the coal. As the story moves back and forth from 1933 to 2004, Ruby is torn between going back for a big celebration the town is planning or staying home in Kentucky. Without knowing anything about the invitation she has received to be the guest of honor, her adult children decide she is too old to continue driving and take her car keys from her. Now, what would you do if your kids took your car keys from you when you felt you were still quite capable of driving? For Ruby, that was upsetting enough but learning that her son had spoken with a neighbor about buying her car was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She makes a decision that has all kinds of repercussions for her son and daughter, as well as for the folks down in Beulah Mountain. One of those people is Hollis who promised his parents before they died that he would never sell their land. But Buddy Coleman is applying the pressure for him to sell. What does any of that have to do with Ruby? The excitement and tension mounts as one event after the other occurs, pulling the reader along like a runaway train down the mountainside. Will greed win? Jump on the train and see where it takes you. You will enjoy the ride.
hadassahmae More than 1 year ago
Published by: Tyndale Fiction Written by: Chris Fabry I enjoy checking out all types of fiction and reading books from a variety of authors. I was happy to have the chance to read and review Under a Cloudless Sky. This book tells the story of a woman who has been hiding key pieces of her past for a number of years. Now, she must face them. Who the book is for: Those who are interested in a complicated story of family and history will enjoy this book and all that it offers. What I liked: I didn't know if I would connect with the older woman main character in this book but I found that I did. I like the parts of the book that give a peek into the past of the main character's life. The second half of the book is interesting and fun to read. What I didn’t like: The first half of the book was really hard for me to get into. I almost gave up on reading the book, altogether. My conclusion: Overall, I enjoyed this book in the end. I give Under a Cloudless Sky 4 out of 5 stars. I received this book free to review from Tyndale Blog Network. The opinions expressed in this review are my true thoughts and feeling regarding this book. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
ksnapier475 More than 1 year ago
This novel tells how a town's past can bring it down or save it. Set in Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, in 1933 and in the present. In the past, there are two girls who make a vow. Ruby and Bean come from two different homes. One is the daughter of the mine owner and the other is the daughter of a mine worker. Both girls are looked after by Bean's mother and they do not know about the conflict that is coming. In the present, Hollis Beasley has decided he is going to hold onto the legacy which his family left him on Beulah Mountain. His friend Buddy Coleman, however, want to increase the coal production of the town and open a museum. He wants to share the entire history of this town, including the 1933 uprising. He also will do this without care for anyone else. These two stories come together through an elderly woman who lives miles away. The children of Ruby Handley Freeman want to take away the life she knows, so she disappears. While she is going she discovers a secret which will effect her and those who come across her path. This book kept me on the edge of my seat clear until the end. It is so well-written that I felt like I was int he midst of the story from beginning to end. There is suspense throughout. I look forward to reading other works by this author in the near future. I was given this book by Tyndale in exchange for my honest review. at Barnes and Noble HERE!
vics49548 More than 1 year ago
Dual time periods have become quite popular, and since I’ve gotten used to this style of writing I really enjoy it. Author Chris Fabry takes us from 1933 to 2004 and back very skillfully. I will say it took me a couple of chapters to get into this story, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. Expertly written, with interesting history woven throughout, Fabry’s storyline is quite remarkable. His characters are well developed and intriguing. The thread throughout this book reminds that us that, according to the Bible, truth sets us free. Secrets will always affect our lives adversely. It also addresses the need to forgive so you can move on in life. Full of twists, turns, and winding roads, this book climaxes to a surprise ending that I truly didn’t see coming. I highly recommend it! I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.
Laundry_Whispers More than 1 year ago
Oh for the love of gravy, I have no idea how I want to review this book. I really really liked it for so many reasons I really can’t tell you. I mean, let’s face it, there are things I question and some concerns I have but there are so many other things that I just take with the wind and don’t even second guess. I mean, truly that’s the way it is most of the time right? The problem is I don’t have the words, any words much less all the words, to guide you through my time spent bonding with this book. Here’s the deal. Let’s start simple shall we. I love how the author set the book up with himself as the narrator and each chapter having a date and time and a snippet of what is happening. For example: Hollis takes the long way home Beluah Mountain, West Virginia Friday, October 1, 2004 That’s important because some of the things take place in other areas. It’s also important because it helps to create a seamless transition between then (1933) and now (2004). Let’s talk about those transitions shall we. They were seamless, each part of the story blended to the next, regardless of the date, in such a way that it was almost magical. It drew you like a moth to the flame but saved you from getting burnt. Each time period had scenes that were liveable, I could picture myself in their moments, bells even in their shoes as the characters were very well developed too boot. Storyline, I have to go there. I was about halfway through the book and on the phone with Kristin (you know this is a thing!) and I had already figured out one of the twists. Oh, yeah there are more twists and turns, hills and valleys than a county road through the Ozark Mountains (if you have never driven around Branson, MO you have no idea the crazy that is possible in road creation) but they are way easier on the tummy. Now back to Kristin, she’s already read the book. In my infinite wisdom I tell her that I am going to tell her the outcome of ‘Thing 1’ (I’m not giving you spoilers!) and she has to tell me if I’m right just yes or no. Well the big Thing, Thing 1, totally nailed it before I was half done with the book. I think I impressed her with my mad skills and all. Probably not. Anyway, I had an inkling of a smaller but just as vital ‘Thing 2’. So I ask her and she says no. And she LIED to me! Lied I tell ya. She swears that she misunderstood my question and said her headache made her do it (ya right) but I was seriously doubting my deductive reasoning skills. Now that you seriously doubt my sanity and words putting together skills I’m going to leave you with some closing thoughts. Never assume anything. Never leave a partially finished story on the table. When you do someone else might come through and rewrite the world you thought you knew. Never get so into who you think you are that you forget who you really are. This book embraced everything that I respect in fiction, real yet flawed characters with heart and soul and spunk and intelligence. There was that one thing that happened in the middle that enhanced the story not one wit but did create the endgame so to speak, it was a necessary distraction from the bigger picture (that could have been handled a number of different ways but still probably just a distraction). This book has a glimmer of coming of age that tangos with mystery and a slice of intrigue but cozies up as just an amazing weekend read. I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale House Pub
Laurabo More than 1 year ago
Chris Fabry wrote a very intriguing book in Under a Cloudless Sky. It's a book that was both hard to put down and one that you had to step away from. I could only read a little at a time as it was so intense and mystifying. Ruby and Bean were childhood friends from the town of Beulah Mountains, West Virginia. The two girls are raised from different parts of the town of and circumstances. Ruby's dad, a widow, was part owner of a coal mine and Bean's dad was a injured coal miner that took to drink. Ruby's dad decides to send her to boarding school to get her away from the trouble brewing in the town. Years later, Ruby an octogenarian, is blindsided by her children taking her car keys and trying to clip her wings. Having been approached by a young reporter from the from the coal town, she slips away with a spare set of keys and heads to Beulah Mountains, determined to face a secret that could change the history of the town. I received a free copy from Tyndale House Publishing Group. No review, positive or otherwise, was required – all opinions are my own.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
Under a Cloudless Sky is an incredible read. I could not put it down. Ruby’s story is one a reader would never forget. It has quite a twist and turn I did not see coming nor expect. Ruby endured so much when she was young and her story goes back and forth from 1933 to 2004. Under a Cloudless Sky will definitely be among my favorite books for 2018. I definitely highly highly recommend it. I would give it 100 stars if I could. I received this book from the publisher. This review was 100 percent my own honest opinion
Nicnac63 More than 1 year ago
Two of the initial things that draw me to a book are the cover art and title. Under a Cloudless Sky fits the bill. Next is the author, Chris Fabry. I’ve read several of his stories and haven’t been even slightly disappointed. This dual time-period novel is intertwined so well. No trying to figure out where I am in the story, or who’s who. The southern setting is a favorite of mine, and I enjoyed learning about what it was like living within the coal mining industry. Ruby and Bean, coming from very different backgrounds, are children who look past the obvious, and are best friends where it counts—the heart. With enough mystery, a bit of sadness and a heaping serving of hope, this story is deeply satisfying. A great read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network.