By Susie Finkbeiner
Publisher: Kregel
318 Pages

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.

REVIEW: This writer transports readers back to the Great Depression; showing the hazards and hardships of a hopeful community fighting the dust bowl. The story is a haunting tale written in first person through the eyes of an adorable 10 year old girl named Pearl Spence who instantly stole my heart. I felt for her situation and appreciated her outlook on things. Pearl is compassionate, feisty and has wisdom beyond her years. She has a big sister that walked to the beat of her own drum. Pearl says, “Being a lady was just one of the laundry list of things my sister couldn’t figure out…Mama had told me Beanie was slow. Daddy called her simple. Folks…said she was an idiot. Meemaw said ”those folks didn’t understand and that people sometimes get mean over what they didn’t understand…It ain’t no use fighting them….one of these days they’ll figure out that we’ve got a miracle walking among us.”

It was hard to escape their reality, Pearl says, “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…Still, I couldn’t help but imagine that the dust was one big old whopping from the very hand of God….I wondered how good we’d all have to be to get God to stop being angry at us.”

Meemaw told me, “Life has a way of taking what we know and tangling it all in knots. It ain’t gonna be easy on you to know the truth, never is. But you’re a brave girl. And your strong in the Lord.”

“Every storm has a beginning and every storm has an end. They never last forever.” She whispered, “God is the one who saves. Don’t forget it…Before I knew it, I was hugging my new dress and crying hard because all the green had dried up and gone, never to come back again.…Desperate times called for desperate measures. For those who were unable to leave they did their best with what they had.”

Pearl’s Mom and her Dad the Sheriff helped keep order in their community and helped people where they could. Pearl’s Mom and MeeMaw were strong women doing what they had to keep the faith and pass on food and love all the way.

This is a well-crafted drama with a mystery in the mix. It involved a secret being forced to the surface. Not everyone handles a crisis in the same manner as Pearl and her family. Tough topics portrayed in this novel were those of spousal and child abuse, cruelty to animals and murder. This is not for the faint of heart. I’d rate it a PG 13.

This is a thought-provoking, tender-hearted, emotional read I had to finish because I just had to know how things work out for Pearl and her family as they weathered the storm. This author became obsessed with what happened in the Great Depression and how the people dealt with the dust storms. She says, “After writing A Cup of Dust, I find that my admiration for the Dust Bowl survivors has grown. They were courageous, faithful, optimistic, and generous with what little they had. After all, who knew what the next year might bring. It very well might bring rain, and mercy from the Lord himself.”

ABOUT AUTHOR: Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She is the author of A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (Kregel, 2015), Paint Chips (WhiteFire Publishing, 2013) and My Mother's Chamomile (WhiteFire Publishing 2014).
She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.

Find her at 

Disclosure of Material Connection: #AD Kregel Publications
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network  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”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
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