The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow takes readers back in time during the days of the depression to Boone’s Hollow, a mining town in the hills of Kentucky. Addie Cowherd’s family has experienced financial difficulties that have forced her to leave her college classes as well as her beloved part-time job in the library. She has no choice but to find a full-time job but the only one available requires her to move to Boone’s Hollow to work for the horseback library delivery there. As a city girl, Addie finds life in the hills to be more difficult than she expected and learns more than she ever wanted to know about rivalries and feuds among the hill people. Only her determination and the Lord could help her succeed.
Emmett Tharp is the first resident of Boone’s Hollow to graduate from college but a degree has not been enough to secure him a job during such hard times. He is forced to return home, certain someone will have a job for him but only a job working underground for the mining company is available. Naturally Emmett and Addie crossed paths at some point and worked together to make the library system a success despite subtle attempts to sabotage their friendship and even more blatant attacks when those did not succeed.
Strong and lifelike characters populate the pages of this story. Not only are Emmett and Addie well-developed but other characters also come to life. I appreciated the way one particular unlovable and sometimes vindictive character was portrayed in a way that offered understanding and sympathy for the reason she acted the way she did. This wonderful tale presents a strong story of forgiveness and illustrates how showing the love of Christ can bring a divided community together.
I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. A favorable review was not required. All views expressed are my own.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
A traveling librarian ventures into the mining towns of Kentucky on horseback—and learns to trust the One who truly pens her story—in this powerful novel from the best-selling author of A Silken Thread.
During the Great Depression, city-dweller Addie Cowherd dreams of becoming a novelist and offering readers the escape that books had given her during her tragic childhood. When her father loses his job, she is forced to take the only employment she can find—delivering books on horseback to poor coal-mining families in the hills of Kentucky.
But turning a new page will be nearly impossible in Boone’s Hollow, where residents are steeped in superstitions and deeply suspicious of outsiders. Even local Emmett Tharp feels the sting of rejection after returning to the tiny mountain hamlet as the first in his family to graduate college. And as the crippled economy leaves many men jobless, he fears his degree won’t be worth much in a place where most men either work the coal mine or run moonshine.
As Addie also struggles to find her place, she’ll unearth the truth about a decades-old rivalry. But when someone sets out to sabotage the town’s library program, will the culprit chase Addie away or straight into the arms of the only person who can help her put a broken community back together?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, bestselling author with more than one million books in print in several different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades, including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.
Kim lives with her retired military husband, Don, in central Kansas, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and her grandchildren.
With a setting in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the early 1930’s “Devil in the Dust” is a powerful story of both desperation and hope, avarice and sacrifice, and the basic human will to survive.
The author’s words pulled me immediately into the story. I could hear the never-ending wind and feel it’s dry heat on my skin. I could taste the dirty grit in my mouth and feel the hot earth beneath my bare feet. It was easy to understand the hopelessness that permeated the small town as well as the choices made by the characters. Her characters are strong ones who tell their story well. Pastor Peter and his wife Lillian do what they can to help their flock but feel helpless as they can do little to relieve the suffering. Emma Owen sacrifices her own needs to care for her children in the absence of their father who left on business and never returned. Jessie Owen does all she can to help her family but dreams of a better life. And then there is the stranger who seems to offer hope but may not be who he seems.
The drought had taken a toll on the once thriving small town and farming community. Income lost and the inability to even grow food for their hungry families forced many to leave and those who stayed wondered from day to day just how long they could hang on. And then there were those claimed by death. In the midst of these desperate conditions a shiny new car rolled into town driven by a man with plans to take advantage of the situation. It was little wonder that young Jessie was charmed by his polished appearance, kindness, and generosity. Could this stranger be the answer for the Owen family?
I thoroughly enjoyed “Devil in the Dust”. It is a story that brought a brief part of my American History classes to life and helped me view it through the eyes of those who lived it. I gained a new appreciation for the blessed life I live in a snug house with more than enough food for my family.
Cara Luecht is a gifted author. If you have not read any of her books, “Devil in the Dust” would be a good place to begin.
I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by Celebrate Lit. A favorable review was not required. All views expressed are my own.
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Their small Oklahoma town is dying. Lillian remembers how acres and acres of wheat once waved under jewel-blue skies. Now the dirt stretches across the flat land as far as she can see.
Emma’s husband is missing. She keeps house, keeps her five children fed as best as she can, and keeps smiling as her hope fades. But when the days stretch to weeks, she faces the possibility that he will never come home. Left with the likelihood of losing their farm, and the ever-present pangs of hunger, she is forced to consider opportunities that, under normal circumstances, she would never contemplated.
Jessie, Emma’s oldest daughter, completes her tasks as if numb. Forced to wear her mother’s shoes to avoid the humiliation of bare feet, she watches the dead, dirt road for signs of life.
And then he comes.
His new car and shiny shoes and generous way with gifts and money catch Jessie’s eye, much to the dismay of her mother … and much to the concern of the minister’s wife, Lillian. He’s too smooth, too willing to help, and much too eager to spend time with a girl less than half his age. But who is to say he is not the miracle they all prayed for?
Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.
GUEST POST FROM CARA LUECHT:
Why I wrote Devil in the Dust.
One Sunday after church, we decided to go to lunch with another family. We hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know this couple well, but the conversation was amazing, we laughed until we almost cried, and I’m pretty sure the restaurant manager was glad to see us go.
On the way out, the topic grew more serious, and I mentioned something that worried me. It was maybe a sentence—I was not baring my soul—but the woman with whom we had spent the last couple of delightful hours stopped, blinked, and put up her wall-of-a-Christian-smile. In an instant, I knew I had been judged as negative. You see, for many Christians, the mantras of “the battle is already won,” “faith will get you through,” and the largely American “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” have drowned out the quieter mandate to care.
I went home chased by the feeling that, somehow, I didn’t measure up. And for a time, I dredged that place of overthinking, attempting to float a reason out of that murky pond where insecurity hides.
Of course, I came up with nothing, and decided to put my efforts into deciding what my next novel would be. Unfortunately (or fortunately), at this stage, every little life experience has potential for use.
While I had been undecided on theme, I knew I wanted the setting for the novel to be in the dustbowl in the 1930s. I began researching, and I realized the scope and human impact of this disaster was much larger than I had remembered from history class. More importantly, it lasted an entire decade. For a decade, people dealt with hunger and drought and death from breathing in the ultra-fine soot. Children were lost. Families abandoned their farms. People survived on rations of canned government meat…and that’s when they were lucky. Many felt cursed.
Life was hard. I imagine that smiles were rare, even in the church.
I started thinking about what it would take for a community to survive devastation on this scale. I considered the kind of people who make up a town: merchants, teachers, police, farmers, and ministers. And while merchants and teachers, along with everyone else, would feel the change brought on by the slow death of a drought, for a minister it would be different. A minister’s purpose is to bring people the good news of the gospel. Technically, their job would stay exactly the same, except every phrase they spoke would shift in meaning because the context—the lives of those sitting in the pews—had changed so dramatically.
Growing up as the child of a pastor, I have some knowledge about how a minister’s home works. And in all my research I was left with one question: How could a minister preach every Sunday to a congregation of people who had lost everything with no hope for improvement anytime soon?
I moved my research to the Bible, and when I did, I came across the story of Lazarus. I have heard and read this story countless times, but in the light of trying to puzzle out what a pastor might do in a situation where it looks like all has been lost, I realized something about the story that I had never considered. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he cried with Lazarus’ sisters. He shared in their grief even though he knew it would end. He stayed there with them in that moment of sorrow.
I came to the conclusion that during times of suffering, our responsibility to others should look nothing like that drought-of-a-Christian-smile that I met outside that restaurant. Rather, it should emulate Jesus’ example. When we make Christianity only about victory, and turn faith into a wish book, we strip it of its most powerful message: hope. Not eternal hope, but the hope of not being alone. More often than not, we lack the ability to change someone’s circumstances. What we can do is come up alongside someone and help carry their burden even if only for a few minutes. Christianity is not a way to avoid suffering, it’s about finding meaning through the suffering.
I wrote Devil in the Dust as an exploration of what it means to be a Christian while standing in the midst of a desert. Told through the voices of three women who endure the quiet shame of poverty, Devil in the Dust is a story about what happens to faith when everything goes wrong.
A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and currently teaches English as a second language to elementary students. She has been a freelance writer for ten years and has published two children’s books. Julie and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm.
Julie served as contributing editor to MOMSense magazine and wrote content for Mothers of Preschoolers, Intl. for nearly a decade. Additionally, she has contributed to more than a dozen books. Into The Free is her first book.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.
In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.
For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key which unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.
Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?
Learn more about Julie and her books on her Website.
Into the Free was a beautifully haunting but gritty novel that pulled no punches about telling it like it is yet was restrained in its descriptions of brutal events. This novel is a story of despair that is countered by a misguided hope for much of the story.
Millie has grown up in a household with a rodeo father who is rarely at home but who beats her mother when he is around. Her mother has found an escape through opiates and spends much of her time in what Millie thinks of as the “valley”. The only stable influences in her life are “Sloth”, an old man who watches out for her and makes sure that she is fed and the town librarian. It is no wonder that she has spent years looking forward to the spring arrival of the gypsies and dreaming of escaping with them “into the free”. In particular, she dreams of spending her life traveling with her gypsy friend River who she is convinced she loves. Tragic events quickly change everything in her life and Millie soon finds new people who seem to care for her but her unstable background makes it difficult for her to trust others or to believe that she is deserving of a better life.
Into the Free is a good example of the resiliency of the human spirit when confronted by misfortune and tragedy, especially when that person begins to rely on the Lord. At times this book was hard to read because of the overwhelming circumstances that Millie had to face but her story was so compelling and well written that I just had to see how things would turn out for her.
It is difficult to believe that Into the Free is Julie Cantrell’s very first book. It has the stamp of an established author. I look forward to reading future novels by her – hopefully soon.
For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.
Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother (age 98), and daughter concerning the change in women’s roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve’s Daughters.
Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.
Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. And two of her inspirational fiction books were chosen by Library Journal for their top picks in 2003, and 2005. One of Lynn’s novels has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But happily-ever-after life she’s planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.
Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.
But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated–not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. While Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and mystery–and especially romance–are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.
Beautifully descriptive, Wonderland Creek tells the story of Alice has spent her entire life absorbed by the fantasy world of her books. When her own life is dealt some unexpected blows, Alice seizes the chance to travel to the isolated coal-mining town of Acorn to deliver book donations. Life in Acorn is far different than her expectations but she has no choice but to try and make the best of things. To her surprise, Alice soon finds herself in the middle of an adventure of her own rather than within the pages of a book. And as she finds herself becoming attached to her new friends, Alice also discovers new purpose for her own life.
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