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February 11, 2022

The Dust Bowl Orphans by Suzette D. Harrison ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

"We'd been haunted by hard times.  Drought.  Sizzling temperatures with little reprieve.  And frequent dust storms so vast and relentless that they were called black blizzards because of their chocking swelling plumes of dark, sooty soil and pillaging ferocity.  Land that once bloomed with plenty had become stubbornly barren, mocking our labor and refusing to bear fruit or render a means of sustainable living.  Now, dire circumstances had my family, like so many others, fleeing Oklahoma with little more than pain and precious memories." ( loc 67)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Dust Bowl Orphans
February 2022; Bookouture; 978-1803140803
ebook, print (360 pages); historical fiction

Oklahoma - 1935.  The farm lands have turned to dust and the people who live in Oklahoma are plagued with dust storms.  The land no longer produces crops and the farmers and their families are hungry.  They hear that there are jobs in California and many residents pack up their households and head toward the promised jobs.  

The Wilson family can no longer endure their life and head to California.  There are the parents, one son and two daughters.  When a huge storm blows in,  the two girls - 15-year-old Faith and her five-year-old sister Hope get separated from their family.  They hide in the cellar of an abandoned house and when they finally get out (with the help of two boys), they have no idea where their parents are.  So they decide to head to go to LA and find their parents.  They ride in the wagon of a white family and are treated poorly because they are black.  When they get to LA, they are constantly looked down on because of their race.  Will they ever find their family again?

Zoe's story is present day.  She is a  museum and art curator and is back in California leaving behind her ex-husband in Boston, to work on an exhibit about black people who emigrated from Oklahoma during the dust bowl years.  As she is reviewing pictures, she finds a picture of a girl who looks exactly like her. There have always been some bare branches on Zoe's family tree because her mother was adopted and knew nothing about her birth family.  Zoe decides to find out more about the girl in this picture hoping to find long-lost relatives.  The story of Faith and Hope slowly unravels through Zoe's hard work...but will it reveal the answers to the questions that Zoe has about her family?

Both of the stories in this dual timeline novel are exciting and emotional.  Prejudice towards black people plays a large role in both narratives.  The author has done considerable research into the exodus from Oklahoma to California during these years. The characters are well written and the setting is well described - especially during the dust bowl part of the story.  This book is an emotional look at two women who have a connection with each other that has been forgotten over the years.  It's the story of family and love, faith and hope but most of all it's the story of two strong women who continue to try their best to help their families.

I got pulled into this story on page one and my concern for the characters lasted until the end.  I will advise you to have some tissue close at hand.  I cried several times during the story but they were tears of happiness. for these families.    

Buy The Dust Bowl Orphans at Amazon

Another Recent Book by this Author
The Girl at the Back of the Bus - See my review here.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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