A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl
By Susie Finkbeiner
I am part of a Christian Ladies book club. We get together once a month to discuss the book we had voted on at the previous meeting the month before. This month’s book selection was A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner.
The book takes place in the 1930’s, during the depression era in the state of Oklahoma. Before reading A Cup of Dust, I had no previous knowledge of The Dust Bowl. It is not something I recall ever reading about in my history books, which to me is sad because of the huge impact it had on the mid-western states in the 1930’s.
The Dust Bowl was the name given to the Great Plains region devastated by drought in 1930s depression-ridden America. The 150,000-square-mile area, encompassing the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and neighboring sections of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico, has little rainfall, light soil, and high winds, a potentially destructive combination. When drought struck from 1934 to 1937, the soil lacked the stronger root system of grass as an anchor, so the winds easily picked up the loose topsoil and swirled it into dense dust clouds, called “black blizzards.” Recurrent dust storms wreaked havoc, choking cattle and pasture lands and driving 60 percent of the population from the region. Most of these “exodusters” went to agricultural areas first and then to cities, especially in the Far West.
A Cup of Dust was able to shed light on a major historical event that does not get discussed a lot as being a part of The Great Depression era. Learning about The Dust Bowl and how it affected cities, homes, families and people was quite interesting, from a historical perspective.
Overall, I thought the book was average. Besides the history within the book, I felt like there was not a lot of other meat to the book that pulled me in.
I thought there was a lot of stretching within the book in order to have enough words included to constitute a novel. The plot took quite a long time to develop and once it did finally unravel, it was quite predictable.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for light historical fiction around The Great Depression Era.
“Last, and only on clear days, I could see straight out to the sharecroppers’ cabins. The folks that lived in those little shacks had to pay the rent with the crop they harvested. Seeing as nobody had a crop to speak of for years, most of them had been forced out by the banks. A few had managed to hold on, though nobody could figure out how.”
This section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book.
There were a couple of reader discussion questions we talked about that did give me an enlightening perspective on the book. We had some great dialogue about the racism towards African Americans and Native Americans. We had a great conversation about sin and how churches of the past used the sin of the community to explain away and condemn things like the Dust Bowl; about how the pastor of a community can set the tone for the church.
We also had some great conversation about what it means to love when you come from a family upbringing where that seems to be lacking; how do you overcome your own past?
Where you come from isn’t who you are.
Many of the ladies in my book club enjoyed this book and found it quite an emotional read. Another factor we discussed is that most of the other ladies read the book in 2-3 days while I read the book in 2-3 weeks in small chunks; perhaps I was not able to fully immerse myself into the emotional aspects of the book.
After discussion, I did see that there was some merit to this book and it is definitely worth giving it a chance. It is not a book that I would read again nor will I read the second book in the series, A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression, however it is a good read for anyone looking for a historical fiction book to read.