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1935 – Michigan
Pearl Spence has finally settled into a routine in Bliss, Michigan, far from her home in Red River, Oklahoma. Like all the other kids, she goes to school each day, plays in the woods, and does her chores. But there’s one big difference: Mama is still gone, and doesn’t seem to have a thought for the family she’s left behind.
Escaping from her worries is another part of Pearl’s new routine, whether that’s running to Aunt Carrie’s farm, listening to the radio with Ray, or losing herself in a book. In fact, a chair in the stacks, surrounded by books, might be her favorite place on earth–until she discovers swing dancing. The music transports Pearl to a whole other world.
When Mama unexpectedly returns, it isn’t the happy occasion Pearl had imagined. Mama is distant and Pearl can’t figure out how to please her. And the horrible way she treats Daddy is more than Pearl can bear. Seems life would be better if Mama would just stay away.
Finkbeiner’s portrayal of both tragedy and everyday life in times of great change is charged with a raw beauty that will haunt readers. Fans of the two prior Pearl Spence novels won’t be disappointed!
The Best Gift of All
1934 – Massachusetts
She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive … the best gift of all.
Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?
1934 – Canada
In the dead-end Canadian town of Bleak Landing, twelve-year-old Irish immigrant Bridget O’Sullivan lives in a ramshackle house and dreams of another life, even as the Great Depression rages. Routinely beaten by her father and bullied by schoolmate Victor Harrison, the waifish yet fiery redhead vows to run away and never return. Just a few short years later, run she does—fleeing the unspeakable repercussions of her father’s gambling. In Winnipeg, Bridget lands a job at a garment factory, the first step on her journey to shed her past and begin anew.
When her father dies, Bridget—now a striking and accomplished woman—returns home to claim her inheritance. But she has no identification to prove her stake, and no one in town recognizes her—except Victor, who has become a pastor and a candidate for town mayor. Though war has wounded him, his secret affection for Bridget remains, and now he’s the only one who can help her prove her integrity. But can he also prove he’s a changed man worthy of her forgiveness?
As Victor preaches of freedom in faith, will his words spark Bridget’s once-hopeless heart and lead her to the life she’s been seeking?
An Amish Courtship
1937 – Indiana
Samuel Lapp all but accepts his estrangement from the Amish community—until Mary Hochstetter moves in next door to care for her elderly aunt. The young woman with the pretty brown eyes sees Samuel differently than his neighbors do. If he can earn her respect while helping with her aunt’s chores, perhaps the rest of the community will follow. But Samuel can’t let Mary get too close, lest he disappoint her, as well.
Mary’s relocation to Shipshewana, Indiana, means confronting her deepest fears. By helping Samuel rebuild his life and his farm, she finally feels ready to embrace her future. But as their delicate friendship grows deeper, they both must overcome their painful pasts before they can build a home together.
A Rose So Fair
1933 – Arkansas
Plucky Rose Linwood grew up on her grandfather’s Arkansas tenant farm, a life her two older sisters never cared much for. Working alongside her grandpa, though, Rose learned to love the land as much as he did. Now her sisters have married and moved on, Grandpa has gone to his eternal reward, and Rose is determined to make a go of the farm on her own. But crops have been slow to recover since the drought of 1930-31, and the whole country struggles in the grip of the Great Depression. Drifters looking for work or handouts roam the countryside, some of them up to no good, so Rose keeps her trusty Winchester rifle at the ready.
Caleb Wieland, Rose’s best friend, isn’t the farmer his late father was, and he’s about to lose his cotton crop to boll weevils. He’d let the farm go and search for work he’s more suited to, except he can’t desert his widowed mother. Besides, he’s been quietly falling in love with Rose since they were in grammar school, and the thought of leaving her behind is too much to bear. He’d give anything to win her heart, but Rose’s stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she’s named.
Devil in the Dust
1933 – Oklahoma
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 contemplate.
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?
Lillian and her husband stand by, helpless, as they realize that the winds carry more than one kind of evil, and as they are all forced to decide where the evil lies: in hunger, or in hope.
A Trail of Crumbs
1935 – Oklahoma
“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?
Castles in the Clouds
1932 – Arkansas and Kenya
The first book in the Flowers of Eden series introduced readers to Bryony Linwood, an orphan trying desperately to provide for her sisters in the shadow of the Great Depression. In Castles in the Clouds, we meet one of those sisters—Larkspur Linwood, a young woman who has a passion for teaching but yearns for something more than life as a small-town Arkansas schoolmarm.
Young and impressionable, Lark mistakes a college professor’s interest for romantic love. When he offers her the chance to join his efforts to start a school in Kenya, she pictures herself bringing the light of knowledge to hundreds of African children eager to learn. But the menial tasks she’s assigned at the school aren’t so different from life on the farm where she grew up. Miserable and deflated, with her fragile heart broken, she gives up and returns home.
Enter Professor Anson Schafer, whom she met briefly in Kenya. Partially blinded from an eye infection he contracted there, Professor Schafer cannot return to Africa. He has come to Lark’s school to recruit teachers like her for a more modest venture—the founding of schools and relief efforts here in the U.S. for those struggling through the Depression.
Still stinging from her experience in Kenya, Lark is reluctant to risk leaving her familiar surroundings, but she knows how great the need has become, and—although this isn’t the exciting life she’d envisioned—she finally agrees. As they work side by side, Lark begins to realize that the deepest satisfaction comes not so much from what you do, or where you do it, but from the attitude of your heart.
1934 – California
Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.
At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.
After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another.
Kathy Andrews is good at goodbyes. Her mother is sent to a sanatorium, her sister, left behind in Chicago, and her father, forced to roam looking for work. So she holds close to the only one she has left, her brother Danny. When the two go to live with the Marshalls in the sleepy town of Brighton, she doesn’t let anyone past hello. Elliott Russell frowns at his aunt and uncle’s generosity–even though he and his sister are on the receiving end. He frowns, too, at the uppity city girl with a chip on her shoulder whom he can’t get out of his head. When a tragedy rips apart what tenuous existence they manage to forge, will they find the sweetest place to be is in God’s will–or will they turn their backs on faith that fails to protect against pain?