The dust cloud rolls in from nowhere, stinging our eyes and muddling our senses. I reach for my baby sister and pull her small body close to me. When the sky clears, we are alone on an empty road with no clue which way to go…
Oklahoma, 1935. Fifteen-year-old Faith Wilson takes her little sister Hope’s hand. In worn-down shoes, they walk through the choking heat of the Dust Bowl towards a new life in California. But when a storm blows in, the girls are separated from their parents. How will they survive in a place where just the color of their skin puts them in terrible danger?
Starving and forced to sleep on the streets, Faith thinks a room in a small boarding house will keep her sister safe. But the glare in the landlady’s eye as Faith leaves in search of their parents has her wondering if she’s made a dangerous mistake. Who is this woman, and what does she want with sweet little Hope? Trapped, will the sisters ever find their way back to their family?
California, present day. Reeling from her divorce and grieving the child she lost, Zoe Edwards feels completely alone in the world. Throwing herself into work cataloguing old photos for an exhibition, she sees an image of a teenage girl who looks exactly like her, and a shiver grips her. Could this girl be a long-lost relation, someone to finally explain the holes in Zoe’s family history? Diving into the secrets in her past, Zoe unravels this young girl’s heartbreaking story of bravery and sacrifice. But will anything prepare her for the truth about who she is…?
A devastating, completely captivating story of family torn apart, fighting to be reunited. Fans of Orphan Train, Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing will never forget this powerful story of survival.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 354
Date of Publication: February 7, 2022
My Rating: 5 Stars
Last year it was The Girl at the Back of the Bus that proved to be my favorite book of the year, and so far this book, The Dust Bowl Orphans, is right up there filling that spot. In this book, families became refugees during the black blizzard of the night during the 1930s. For Faith Wilson and her family, they struggled to survive the most difficult of times.
This incredibly engaging read by Suzette D. Harrison reminded me of a book that I read last year by Kristin Hannah, The Four Winds. We have a different set of protagonists in this book, as our characters were Black and their drama seemed all that more intense considering the prejudices that pressed those in even harsher ways than other people suffering the effects of the dust storms of the 1930s.
Faith and Hope lost their parents in the storm. The girls struck out on their own and headed to the land of plenty, California. Faith did whatever she could to protect Hope every step of the way. Although they started off with their brother and parents, they were seperated, leaving Faith and Hope on their own. Being Black at such a time only increased their trials. In fact, a hundredfold compared to what many went through.
The story shifted to the present with Zoe, an art curator who discovered an old picture of a child that could have been her twin. Who was in this picture and why does Zoe resemble her so much? Zoe is determined to trace her past, to discover the source of the picture, and to try and rebuild her life after experiencing great personal loss.
This story slowly connects Faith and Hope's past with Zoe's present. Faith's story was utterly heartbreaking, and just so compelling, that this book was impossible to put down. As the story unfolded Harrison seamlessly blended these stories together, bringing in more than one surpise along the way. Some of the issues in this book were truly shocking, including the religious zealots that played a role in Faith's life. Strength, courage, drama and emotion all played pivotal roles in this powerful story.
Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary "career" began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next novel...in between batches of cupcakes.