About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)
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.
This tale of the dust bowl made vivid to me a place and time in history I previously knew little about. I read this one what feels like a long time ago and never got around to writing a review. But since I’ve recently been reminded just how much I enjoyed reading it, I’ve gone back over my notes and decided it’s time to share.
This is a young girl’s story, told in her own uniquely quirky voice. Readers are taken on an emotional journey, in turns heartbreaking, terrifying, and humorous, by a character who is somewhat paradoxically both naïve and wise beyond her years.
Our young heroine Pearl makes some great observations every now and then. For example, early in the story (pages 24-25) she notes: “That was when I learned that kindness could break a heart just as sure as meanness. The difference was the kindness made that broken heart softer. Meanness just made the heart want to be hard.”
Pearl’s story touches on some big and discussable themes like love and sacrifice and the true meaning of family. But the aspect that stood out for me was the way the author used different characters’ competing views on the nature of God and His role in their situations. Through these different viewpoints, readers are challenged to consider what we believe and why. This is a story that could foster some great discussion in a book group setting. Highly recommended, particularly to readers up for a literary coming-of-age story with a touch of mystery and suspense.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book. I was not required to write a review, but I wanted to.