Book Review: A Trail of Crumbs

13 Apr

“I believed it would have been a sin to stay inside when God had sent us such fine weather. According to Pastor Ezra Anderson, sin was the reason we’d got in the dusty mess we were in. The way I saw it, that day was God’s way of letting us know He wasn’t mad at us anymore. Just maybe He’d seen fit to forgive us.”

Pearl Spence has been through more in her young life than most folks could handle. But through it all, her family has been by her side. They may not be perfect, but they love her and they all love each other, come what may. That’s one thing Pearl no longer questions.

But the end of her beautiful day signals the beginning of the end of her secure life.

Now her family is fleeing their Oklahoma wasteland. Pearl isn’t sure she’ll ever see home or happiness again. Are there any crumbs powerful enough to guide her back to the dependable life she once knew?

The strong narrative voice of Finkbeiner’s young protagonist from A Cup of Dust returns in this gritty yet hopeful sequel, sure to please her many fans.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

My Impressions:

Susie Finkbeiner’s novel, A Cup of Dust, is excellent. It opened my eyes to the forgotten history of the Dust Bowl, but also introduced me to the wonderful character, Pearl Spence. Pearl’s story continues in her second novel, A Trail of Crumbs, another beautifully written novel that grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. This book gets a highly recommended rating from me.

Tragedy strikes the Spence family once again, and the only remedy seems to be to relocate from the dry dusty world of Red River, Oklahoma to the color-filled town of Bliss, Michigan. Will the family find a new home filled with hope and possibilities or lose their way?

A Trail of Crumbs is filled with wonderful characters, not the least 10 year old, Pearl. The book is told in her first person voice, allowing the reader a look into her story, but also a different perspective of other members of her family. The result is insightful, yet tinged with innocence. This is a coming-of-age novel, and it broke my heart to read Pearl’s transformation from a hope-filled child to one who knew the cynicism of adults. Her observations of the other characters give an almost complete sketch of their motivations and struggles. I say almost, because one can never know just what goes on in the heart and mind of another person. This did not frustrate me as a reader; rather it made me examine my own assumptions about others. The setting of Bliss is like another character. The wonder Pearl expresses at the depth of color each season brings is in stark contrast to the gray/brown world of her early life. It is no surprise that Pearl is drawn to the story of Dorothy Gale and her adventures in Oz.

The importance of story runs throughout A Trail of Crumbs, and Finkbeiner deftly includes the ridiculously fun stories Daddy relates, the books that Pearl immerses herself in, and the stories Pearl makes up to help her cope with the many changes in her life. All add to the story that becomes Pearl’s life. Home is a major theme — what makes it and how to find it. Pearl’s family is not conventional, not one are related by blood. But as she states: “Blood didn’t mean anything when it came to making a home.” (page 136). As Pearl settles into her new home, Mama seems to lose her sense of it. The book ends with questions that I hope will be resolved in the third installment due out next year, A Song of Home.

I apologize if my review seems to be rambling. I really loved A Trail of Crumbs, and Pearl found a place in my heart. But with many great books, I often find it hard to express just what they mean to me. Another blogger has coined the term SWOOF — squeezing words out of feelings. This is how I feel about A Trail of Crumbs, a novel that elicits feelings that mere words cannot express. All I can say is get copies of A Cup of Dust (if you haven’t read it yet) and A Trail of Crumbs and settle in for stories that will sweep you up and away.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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2 Responses to “Book Review: A Trail of Crumbs”

  1. Susie Finkbeiner April 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    Oh, thank you so much for this encouraging review!

    Like

    • rbclibrary April 13, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

      You are so welcome! Looking forward to more of Pearl’s story.

      Like

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