One year in the life of a small farming family in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the beginning of the Dust Bowl is the focus of this short novel. Amidst the descriptions of dust storms, grit and desolation, the reader is teased with visions of the rich farming community before the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Annie Bell is in her 30s and has experienced both joy and sorrow. She does not complain about her life. She chose this life and she loves her husband, but it is not enough. Annie has an affair with the mayor. Birdie is her oldest daughter who has her sights set on Cy, a boy from a neighboring farm. Sure enough, Birdie gets pregnant and Cy’s family moves away before she can tell him. Annie’s son, Frank, is mute (and we have no glimpse as to why) and he is also asthmatic. The frequent dust storms are doom to an asthmatic child so the reader can see how this will end.
The descriptions are very good of the drought and dust storms and the conditions that spurred family after family to abandon their homesteads. The story is told from multiple points of view and the writing is fluid. The characters are likeable but only a glimpse of their life is given. However, just enough background is given about Annie to see the loneliness. It is easy to understand Birdie and her infatuation with Cy but Annie’s affair with the mayor just didn’t make sense to me. There wasn’t just one bad thing or even a string of bad things to lead her down that path. It almost seemed that she was just bored, not emotionally desperate. I’m not sure of the target audience. While there is no description of the sexual situations, it seems this is the emphasis of the story as that bare mattress in the abandoned farmhouse was a main setting of the story. The historical fiction aspects do not yield enough detail about the Dust Bowl for the reader to come away with oodles of understanding about the Dust Bowl. For example, the rabbit drives are not presented with much detail. The target audience appears to be high school and adult, but would adults be drawn to a short novel set during the Dust Bowl?
eGalley review Publication date 8.9.16