Miracle in a Dry Season: A Novel by Sarah Loudin Thomas
Miracle in a Dry Season is all about community, family and the body of believers we call Church. This novel’s setting is West Virginia in the 1950’s. Sometimes the standards we cling to become more of a habit than a conviction; we forget the human element and the very reason why we have family, church, and community at all–the failings and frailty of humanity, the need to protect each other and share with each other, offering our friends, family and neighbors forbearance, tolerance and forgiveness.
Casewell Phillips lived in the small town of Wise, West Virginia. He was a man who loved working with his hands–woodworking and playing music. He lived in a house he built on his own within walking distance of his folk’s farm. Being single and 35, he was ready to settle down, but so far no one had really caught his eye. He loved God, was an elder in his church, and folks generally described him as a pillar of their community. He often helped his father on his farm, his neighbors and friends on theirs. He had always had a good relationship with his parents, although his father was not one to talk much or express his feelings out loud. Even though his dad never said it to him in words, he knew his father loved him.
One day in church Casewell was introduced to a fair young woman by friends of the family–the Thorntons. Robert and Delilah’s niece was visiting them for an indefinite period of time. Perla Long and her daughter Sadie needed to leave their home town and Perla’s parents because of malicious gossip and the unkind treatment she received from those with judgmental attitudes. It was true, she’d had a child out of wedlock. But she hoped living in a new community where no one knew her would give her a fresh start. But she wasn’t in Wise very long before rumors were flying again.
Casewell had heard the gossip although he tried not to listen. Still, when he felt attraction for Perla and Sadie, at first he didn’t act on it. He might have never done anything more about that first bit of spark if tragedy hadn’t struck the small community in the form of a severe drought. Perla had a special ability that served the community well, but which also stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble, perpetuated by peoples’ superstitious beliefs and superficial attitudes of self-righteousness. Casewell was right in the thick of it all, working side by side with the Thorntons and Perla to save their town in spite of peoples’ stubbornness. As if Casewell wasn’t put through the wringer in that first bout of trials, he faced another catastrophe when doctors discovered his father had lung cancer. Right before his eyes, his father lay aside the veneer of civility to become an angry, cynical man. For a second time, a miracle arrived from the unlikeliest of places, reaching out to the suffering man, bringing peace.
The author’s storytelling skills help us become immediately immersed in the feeling of down-home cozy, where the reader gets to know all the good, the bad, and the ugly of life in the town of Wise. We care when people turn on each other in bad times, and we rejoice when someone rises above it all and demonstrates selflessness. When an author can get their readers invested in the outcome of a story in this way, you know it’s good writing.
Ms. Thomas also makes good use of metaphors in this book. As I got involved with the plot, I could easily see that there was more than one type of “dry season” being lived out in the story. The more literal dry season brought out the worst in some peoples’ personalities, while the spiritual dry season brought out the worst and the best in others’. It was so typical of reactions I’ve seen in tough times that I knew the author is a true student of human nature and behavior. In addition, if you look carefully, you find more than a couple miracles in this book.
Another thing I enjoyed in this story is the delightful way the romance is developed. I could see it happening step by step as I read, in spite of the ugliness of the circumstances around them. I couldn’t help but want to root for the couple to overcome the many obstacles in their way.
For me, the best part of the tale involved the spiritual awakening of many of the ailing congregation, especially of those who had treated Perla the worst. The Biblical tenets many of the characters learned are as relevant and important for us today as they were for the townsfolk in their time period. These are truths that emphasize the importance of faith in Christ, human inter-relationships, family, community and church fellowship.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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