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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!
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1925 – Louisiana
In a southern U.S. farming community in 1925, thirteen-year-old Salvatore and his Italian immigrant father become involved against their will in a crime that results in the murder of an innocent man and family friend. Will Sal keep the secrets about that night as his father asks, or risk everything he and his family cherish in their new homeland, including their lives?
Amidst bigotry, bootlegging, police corruption, and gangland threats, Sal must discover whom he can trust in order to protect himself and his family and win back his father’s freedom. Sal’s family, their African-American farmhand, and the girl who is Sal’s best friend find their lives forever changed as dreams are shattered and attitudes challenged in a small community called Freedom.
An Offering: The Tale of Therese
1504 – Germany
Eight year-old Therese longs for a home. Fatherless and living in one, small room with her mother, Therese is sent to visit her grandparents in the next town when men come to visit. She’s hoping this man will be the one who marries her mother and gives them a home.
But on this day, while heading to her grandparents, she stops to pick up vegetables that have fallen off a passing wagon and is accused of being a beggar and attacked with stones. Rescued by a nun from the local convent, she brings Therese to the church, where she is cared for. In the loving arms of the nun, Therese wishes she could stay.
Leaving the convent for her grandparent’s house, Therese is welcomed in for the first time. Again, she longs to make this her home along with her mother, but realizes that grace and forgiveness don’t come easy. What must be sacrificed to see her dream come true?
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?
The Girl from the Train
WWII – Germany, Poland, South Africa
Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.
As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.
Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.
But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.
Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.
A Cup of Dust
1935 – Oklahoma
Where you come from isn’t who you are
Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff’s family, they’ve got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They’re who the town turns to when there’s a crisis or a need—and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.
Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother’s unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn’t sure she likes.
Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Ernie DuPre is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he’s really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won’t be the only thing darkening Pearl’s world.
While the tone is suspenseful and often poignant, the subtle humor of Pearl’s voice keeps A Cup of Dust from becoming heavy-handed. Finkbeiner deftly paints a story of a family unit coming together despite fractures of distress threatening to pull them apart.
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1930s – Kansas
Maggie Daniels is haunted by the accident. She sees it when she closes her eyes, and she hears it in her father’s words: “Maggie should’ve come and gotten me.” They are constant reminders of the tragic event. Her mama is gone and Maggie is to blame.
When her daddy marries another woman, it’s a chance for a fresh start. But Maggie can’t let go of the past. She clings to a few precious mementos—all she has left of her mother. They become secret treasures, her only link to a past filled with tenderness and joy. She focuses on these items, closing herself off to everyone who cares for her.
But when a second tragedy threatens to tear her world apart, will Maggie’s treasure be enough to sustain her? Or will she finally turn to God, and to the people who have tried so hard to love her?