Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Books that are set in the state of West Virginia are hard to come by.  Books set in West Virginia that don't paint us to be stupid, backwoods hicks are even harder to come by.  So when I saw this new series by Sarah Loudin Thomas, I was excited to read it. 
The story is set in Wise,  a small town in West Virginia in the 1950s.  Perla Long and her fatherless daughter, Sadie, have come to town to stay with her aunt and uncle for a while.  Rumors and gossip about Perla and the father of her child sent her away from her hometown.  It's not long before the gossip begins again in Wise.  Accompanying this new set of rumors is a horrible drought, the likes of which has never been seen in the area.  The pastor of the local church blames the drought on the sin of the people in general, and the sin of Perla in particular.  Things only get worse when it's discovered that Perla has a special gift with food.  When she cooks, it seems that there is always enough to feed everyone, no matter how little food, and how many people.  This leads the townspeople to accuse her of being a witch.  Casewell Phillips is a pillar in the community, a local woodworker, musician and elder in the church.  He begins to fall in love with Perla, but he can't overlook her past and forgive her mistake.  When Casewell's father, John, is diagnosed with cancer, he turns away from God, Casewell and the community in general.  But through the love of Sadie, he will find a second chance for forgiveness and love before his death.  The last lesson that he leaves with Casewell is one of forgiveness--received from God and given to others.  Casewell must choose to forgive Perla, his father, and others in the community who have wronged him.  Perla must also find the strength to forgive Sadie's father, and those who have hurt her through their gossip and lies.  Two local sisters, Angie and Liza must forgive one another, as well as the suitor who wronged them both many years before.
As you can see, the message of forgiveness is strong in Miracle in a Dry Season. The plot itself is wonderful, and I enjoyed reading it.  The people in Wise, were painted as good, country folks, but not uneducated or hicks.  However, I felt like the story fizzled about halfway through.  Although I hated the fact that the pastor was made out to be the bad guy, it really added an interesting dynamic to the story.  He was overzealous, cruel and unforgiving towards Perla, and laid all the blame for the drought at her feet.  He was confronted and left town, and the conflict of the story basically ended there.  I kept waiting for him to come back and cause more trouble, but he never did.  Since he left almost right in the middle of the book, I figured the drought would stretch on a while.  The drought ended and John Phillips died just a few pages after Pastor Longbourne made his exit.  The rest of the story was pretty much just Casewell and Perla going back and forth about their feelings for one another.  Casewell proposed. Perla accepted. Perla ran away. Caswell ran after her.  Even their return and the planning of the wedding stretched on for several unnecessary chapters. 
I really did like this book for the most part.  I think that it could have been shortened a little, and the story would have been just as good without all of the unnecessary parts.  It was an unusual plot, and a nice setting.  The characters were pretty good.  The twin sisters and Frank annoyed me a little, because their story seemed a little unbelievable.  I also felt like the parts about John Phillips and his change of heart could have been explained a little more. 
Overall, though, this was a nice read, and I hope to read more in this series in the future.  Also, if you're interested in Sarah Loudin Thomas' books, there is a prequel to Miracle in a Dry Season. It's called Appalachian Serenade  and it's available for free from the Amazon Kindle store. (If you don't have a Kindle, you can still read this book, and all other Kindle books on your phone or computer with a free Kindle reading app.  Click here to see how.) Give it a try and look for Miracle in a Dry Season on or around August 5, 2014!  Hope you like it!

Happy ~Summer~Reading!

I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own. 

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