I just finished my review copy of Miracle In A Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas this afternoon. In the quiet of a hot summer day what better plan than to finish a book I could barely put down only a day ago. I am at that point every reader is at when a good book is finished and there is not another to take its place.
The story is set in 1954 in Wise, West Virginia. It is a small town with only one grocer, a place the town gathers for coffee and gossip. Robert and Delilah Thornton owners of the store have taken in their niece Perla Long, the young unwed mother of Sadie. The times are vastly different in 1954, a time when morals ran higher than one expects today when seemingly anything goes. The town is suspicious of Perla who arouses curiosity as she cooks like a dream with a few simple ingredients.
Take Casewell Phillips, a youngish single man who accepts Delilah and Robert's invitation for Sunday dinner after meeting Perla at church. He isn't sure what to make of her situation but enjoys the finest pork roast he's ever eaten and isn't sure just how to thank her. He is taken with Sadie and decides the thank you will be in the form of furniture for her doll. He isn't looking for a relationship with Perla; after all, she is considered damaged goods and he couldn't think how any man could raise a daughter born out of wedlock. Yet there is something about Perla that captivates Casewell and he can't get his mind off her gentle ways, her sweet Sadie and of course, her cooking!
The story weaves its way through these central characters to Casewell's harsh father John and his loving mother Emily. Pastor Longbourne, a stereotypical southern minister with a penchant for loud blustery sermons is a man without compassion or wisdom. The Talbot sisters, Liza and Angie, twins who both loved the same man have secrets that are waiting to come out into the open.
The town thrives with the same routine and stories until that dry summer that brought the drought. Wells dried up, crops failed and cattle were destroyed before they could die from lack of food and water. The drought brought out many things human nature tries to sweep under a rug. Tempers flared, people grew hungry and remembered the Great Depression of the 1930's. Perla, gifted cook that she was, fed the community with resources pooled together. Soon enough though, and with help fueled by an unlikely source, suspicions gave way to fear and mistrust and what unfolds can break the spirit if one is without faith.
Without spoiling a wonderful story, the lessons learned are lessons from times long ago and yet ageless. The author has cast her characters in a way that could have walked off the streets in my own hometown in 1954 and shown their humanity, failings and grace. This story stirred my heart and I am looking forward to reading more books by Sarah Loudin Thomas. Many thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to read and review this book!