Long before anyone would christen it “The Dust Bowl,” Nola Merrill senses the destruction. She’s been drying up bit by bit since the day her mother died, leaving her to be raised by a father who withholds his affection the way God keeps a grip on the Oklahoma rain. A hasty marriage to Russ, a young preacher, didn’t bring the escape she desired. Now, twelve years later with two children to raise, new seeds of dissatisfaction take root.
When Jim, a mysterious drifter and long-lost friend from her husband’s past, takes refuge in their home, Nola slowly springs to life under his attentions until a single, reckless encounter brings her to commit the ultimate betrayal of her marriage. For months Nola withers in the wake of the sin she so desperately tries to bury. Guilt and shame consume her physically and spiritually, until an opportunity arises that will bring the family far from the drought and dust of Oklahoma. Or so she thinks. As the storms follow, she is consumed with the burden of her sin and confesses all, hoping to find Russ’s love strong enough to stand the test.
I am a huge fan of Allison Pittman and have read her Sister Wives books twice, which is saying a lot since I usually don’t read a book more than once. I was super excited to read this one, not only because I enjoy Pittman’s writing, but also because I was intrigued by the setting. The only other book I have read that was set in this time period was The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, so I was excited to read a different perspective.
This book was just ok for me. It was a nice book, with an interesting plot and some nice characters. However, I just couldn’t connect with Nola. The affair between Nola and Jim was preventable on her part. Jim did not actively pursue Nola. I found it frustrating that Nola did not fight harder against the temptation of Jim. I also found the relationship between Nola and her father confusing. I can speculate why Pittman chose to have Nola behave in a forgiving way toward her abusive father, but it would have been nice to have Nola share her thought process. Was it because she was honoring her father in spite of the past, or was it because she was hoping to have a closeness with him, or was it because she was unable to move beyond the abuse of the past despite the unconditional love of her husband?
The themes of unconditional love and forgiveness that are woven through the book really make it worth reading. Russ is the epitome of love, and when Nola finally confesses her affair, his reaction is real and understandable. However, it creates another dilemma for me at the end of the book, because I would have liked to have read more of their relationship after the confession is made. It ended a bit too abruptly for me.
What makes this book the best for me is the descriptiveness, especially of the dust storms. The lengths the townspeople go through to try to keep the dust out of their homes is amazing. It really gave me an understanding of how difficult life in the dust bowl was.
Overall, this book is a must read for any Allison Pittman fan. It is different from any of her other books, which might make it better for some readers. It just wasn’t my favorite book of hers.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.