Top 5 Books – November 2017

Well hi there! Sorry this post is later in the day than normal… I just got back from my church’s live Nativity play (which went incredibly well!) and so have only now sat down to write out my book reviews… Now if I had been organised, I would’ve written the reviews earlier in the week. But I’ve been down with a heavy cold all week, and besides, I’m rarely organised… 😀 Soooo, I’m writing the reviews now, and if they’re shorter than normal, I apologise and blame it on the fact that I’m exhausted after tramping around a farm in about 20 layers of clothing all afternoon. 😀

~

the princess bride

The Princess Bride ~ William Goldman

Good gracious me, I can’t believe I haven’t read this book before!! I was aware of the story for a while, and watched the movie for the first time this year. But I hadn’t really been aware it was a book until recently. And boy, I’m glad I read this book! It’s hilarious. Seriously. The notes that Goldman puts in and how he explains the back story and how he came to abridge it all are fascinating and so witty!

It’s the typical fairytale story of true love and a beautiful maiden in distress and the daring prince that rescues her from the dastardly rogue and it all ends in true love. Or is it? Maybe the daring prince is really a rogue in disguise, and the dastardly rogue is really not what he seems? Let me tell you, this story is SO clever! It turns fairytales on their heads and liberally adds humour and eccentricities to the mix. I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning finishing it – it’s definitely a page turner! I’m giving it a solid 9* out of 10, and recommending it for 12+.

 

out of mormonism

Out of Mormonism ~ Judy Robertson

This was a really interesting read. I have a general knowledge of Mormonism and what their beliefs are, but I’ve never really properly delved into that religion. This book helped change that. I found it randomly on my parents’ bookshelves, I started reading it, and finished it in one sitting!

It’s the true story of how the author was convinced to become a Mormon, and then how 10 years later she became disillusioned with it and left the religion (Spoiler alert, she comes back to Christianity!) Mrs Robertson writes with clarity and insight, and I was gripped by her story. I found it so interesting reading the reasons why she was so attracted to Mormonism in the first place, and then how she gradually had more and more doubts as she got deeper and deeper into the religion. I learnt a lot about the in’s and out’s of the religion, and I feel that I now have a better understanding of Mormonism as a result. (And just for the record, reading this convinced me that I should not become a Mormon!)

If you’re interested in learning more about how Mormonism works or what they believe, this book is definitely for you! (Or if you want to be thoroughly convinced not to become a Mormon, it’s for you too, lol :D) I’m giving Out of Mormonism 8* out of 10 and recommending it for 15+ (due to some mature content in some parts. And it’s just generally written for an adult audience, not a teen one)

 

the giver

The Giver ~ Lois Lowry

Well this is one of those books that you finish and then have to sit silently for ages while you just try to work through the emotions it brings up in you. I’m not even sure how to write about it now.

It’s an incredibly beautiful book – beautiful in a haunting, poignant, aching type of way. It’s a very cleverly written story, with some very beautiful characters in it. It’s that type of book that makes you want to scream with anger and throw it at a wall. And it’s that type of book that makes you want to cry, but you don’t know why. Just the way it’s written and the storyline and the characters and the ending all weave together to form a lump in your throat and a deep ache in your chest.

I made the mistake of starting it late at night. Bad idea. 😀 I then proceeded to read into the early hours of the morning, and then lay awake with the previously described emotions swirling through my head.

No description of mine can do any good, so if you want a good description, just google it. And then go buy it on kindle or Amazon or get it at the library and read it (not late at night though!) I promise you will not be the same afterwards.

I’m giving this book 9* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 14+ (You can probably see why, based on my above review. It’s got a couple pretty disturbing parts in it.)

 

the unquenchable flame

The Unquenchable Flame ~ Michael Reeves

So, in case you didn’t know, I’m a history nerd. I love history of all types – something about the stories of days gone by thrills my imagination and sparks my joy! So this book is great for me. It’s very well-researched, and written by an expert in the topic. The Reformation was a pivotal time in the history of Christianity, and it’s chock full of capturing characters and incidents! I loved getting to delve down deep into that time period, and really get a grip on all the facets of the Reformation. Mr Reeves writes with a humour that is rather surprising for such a “dense” history book. I realise that history is not for everyone, but I’d really recommend giving this book a go. It’s a lot easier than it looks, and you will learn a lot through reading it! I’m rating this book 10* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 13+

 

Girlsavage

The Girl Savage – Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is an incredible writer. She has a way with words that is so beautiful and imagination-inspiring! This is the 3rd book I’ve read by her – and I loved it!!

It’s the story of a girl called Will. She lives in Africa, and loves it. She runs run free in her beloved grassland with her companions – the natives and the animals. Her life is wild, and she loves it. But then tragedy strikes, and she is shipped off to England to boarding school. And Will finds that living in the wilds of London is a lot different than living in the wilds of Africa.

Ahhh, this book is seriously gorgeous. The writing, the story, the characters – everything is woven together into a absolutely delightful story! It might be aimed towards younger readers than I, but I couldn’t put it down! Buy it for yourself, your younger siblings, your friend, your grandchildren, whoever, and it will be a hit! I’m giving it 9* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 12+

~

There we are – my top 5 books of November! What about you? What books have you really enjoyed reading in the past month?

Also, I have a special Christmas story that I will be posting in segments from the 20th-25th! Keep your eyes peeled for the first part coming this Wednesday!

 

Advertisements

Freedom Run

Welcome back, and Merry Christmas!! 😀 Ok, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here. But we’ve been putting up Christmas decorations all day, and I’m listening to Christmas music while wearing a pair of reindeer antlers my little sister told me to put on. 😀 So I’m in a rather Christmas-y mood! And will be for the rest of the month…

Christmas is my absolute favourite holiday! It’s just so beautifully joyous! Secrets run through the days like the glittery ribbon that seems to find its way everywhere, and the music is twinkly like stars and fairy lights and smiles. I love the bright and happy atmosphere of everything, and most of all I love the wonderful story that is behind the celebration. I love it all!

So anyways, you can expect to hear more of my delighted ranting about Christmas in the next few weeks. 😀 I even have a Christmas story serial planned for the week leading up to Christmas!

But today I’m going to share a piece of writing that is totally unrelated to Christmas. A week or so ago I was assigned a creative writing project for history. My writerly heart left at the possibilities, and so I let myself loose and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It’s nice when school is actually really enjoyable! 😀 Just to give a little background to the piece – it’s meant to be three journal entries from a slave’s perspective before the Civil War in America. I hope you enjoy! 😉

~

April, 1848

Enough. I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of the scorn, the shame, and the bruises. I’ve had enough of the sorrow, the drudgery, the pain.

Enough. I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen enough screaming children being torn away from their sobbing mothers. I’ve seen enough boys being beaten like animals for lack of speed in their work. I’ve seen enough girls hiding stories of rape and abuse behind their beautiful, blank eyes. I’ve seen enough men bowing and scraping to other men, simply because of the colour of their skin. I’ve seen enough women carrying their master’s seed in their womb.

I’ve seen enough. I’ve had enough. And I’m going to leave.

I scarce dare to write these words down, for fear of being discovered. But I must, I must spill my plans to someone before my heart bursts with emotion, and here is the only place.

Yes, I’m going to leave. Leave this godforsaken piece of land I’ve lived on my entire life. Leave a lifetime of pain, drudgery and sorrow behind. This place where I was born, the place where I first learned what love was, the place where I learned what the crushing weight of sorrow felt like – I’m leaving it all behind.

Something compels me to run. Something within me screams at me to flee. The burns of injustice have become too painful to ignore.

I am an educated human being, I have a soul just like any other human being. I have a brain, and I can use it. I can read, I can write. I can see this institution of slavery for what it really is.

Master’s eyes drift over me like I’m a piece of furniture. He talks to me like I’m a dumb animal. He treats me like the dirt under his feet. And I know it. My mind has been set free, and my body yearns to follow it.

Follow the stars. That what I’m going to do. Follow the stars all the way North… North too… I hardly dare say it.

North to freedom.

May, 1848

Fear sniffs at my heels like the dogs that master set on my trail. I know Master no longer follows me. But still fear lingers close.

It stalks silently beside me as I walk through the dark night. It sits heavily on my chest as I snatch sleep. I can hear its inhuman cackle every time a noise makes me jump. And it never, never leaves me alone.

It joined me when I heard the first hound howl when it picked up my scent. It kept up with me as I ran through the woods, praying to God above to save me from the dogs. It nearly dragged me under the water as I swam desperately across a river. Its evil laugh echoed in my head when I feared for my life in a treacherous swamp.

When the last howl of the hunting hounds faded into the buzzing of swamp mosquitoes, I felt a glimmer of hope flicker. But fear quickly pounced, blowing the flicker out, leaving suffocating darkness and whispered doubts in its place. Even when I found my way out of the swamp and continued on, my unwanted companion stayed close beside me.

And now, I cannot rest. I must go on. Fear snaps at my heels, hurries me onward. I am still a slave. Until I reach the North, I can never be free.

Fear is my new master, and it’s just as cruel as my old one. It is relentless. It laughs at my terror, smiles at my pain.

I run. Following the stars, with fear by my side. I long for freedom.

I pray, whispering pleas to the God in heaven as my feet move mechanically below me.

I’m tired. I’m weary of fear. I’m weary of bondage. I’m weary of running.

And yet, hope still glimmers, though fear often tries to extinguish it. Freedom lies ahead, if I can only run far enough, run fast enough.

But how much longer must I run?

June, 1848

Here I stand, finally, on Northern soil.

I have crossed the rivers, the swamps, the woods, the fields. I have outrun the hounds, my master, and the slave catchers. I have slept little, eaten even less, always driven onwards by the cruelty of fear and the glimmering lure of hope.

The boundary line was inconspicuous, the only marker was a small sign. I crossed into Northern territory with my body worn and weary – stooped from pain and exhaustion, limping from torn and blistered feet.

But as soon as I realized where I was, I stood tall. I raised my shaking hands to the starry heavens and cried my thanks to their creator. My tears soaked into the dust as I knelt and kissed the ground.

Fear gave a parting hiss, and then melted back across the boundary line. I was left alone for the first time in weeks.

But I was not alone. The joy that filled my heart warmed me, the hope was overwhelming. The burden of fear was gone, leaving courage and delight.

And now I walk again. Onwards, deeper into Northern territory, deeper into freedom. The hunger pangs fade, the blisters are bearable.

Nothing matters compared to this incomparable truth: I have reached freedom.

I am finally free.

~

That’s all for this week! Comment down below if you’re as excited for Christmas as I am, as well as what your favourite part of Christmas is! 😀

Top 5 Books – October 2015

Hi there! It’s time for another favourite books of the month post. I seem to do a lot of these, but that’s because time keeps marching on, and I keep reading lots of good books. 😀 I read a lot of good books in October, and I actually have 5 to review today! So without further ado, let’s get on to the reviews!

~

betsy

Betsy and the Emperor – Staton Rabin 

A monster has descended upon Betsy Balcombe’s small island home. Her family are being forced to put him up in their house until his quarters are finished being constructed. So she’s got the terror of her childhood stories, the boogie man of her dreams, living in her house. Not only that, he is the terror of all Europe, the nightmare of all who get in his way. And what is this monster’s name? Napoleon Bonaparte.

But as the weeks wear on, this monster-man does not really live up to his reputation. Instead of the frightening killing machine that Betsy expected, she finds a short, eccentric man that misses his family. As she gets to know him, she finds that she has met her match in wit, daring, and spirit. And this discovery does not just have the potential to change her life and Napoleon’s life, but indeed, to change all of history.

‘Betsy and the Emperor’ painted a vivid picture of the last years of Napoleon’s life, as well as the lives of other characters that surrounded him. It was so fascinating to learn about another side of Napoleon than the one you normally hear in the history books – to learn about the man who loved children, who loved matching wits with opponents, and who loved certain people very deeply. The story was engaging, partly because of the fact that it was recounting a little known side to Napoleon’s character, and partly because of the new, vibrant characters it introduced. Betsy was a relatable and fascinating character, and I loved watching how she changed during the course of the book. Overall, this book was very informative, as well as engaging and funny! I learnt a lot through reading it, and feel that I have a much more rounded picture of Napoleon than I had beforehand. I’m giving this book 8* out of 10 (no higher because some of the things the characters did I did not agree with morally, and there were some adult topics covered in a slightly raunchy way) and recommending it for ages 12+.

~

Island-at-the-End-of-Everything-website.jpg

The Island at the End of Everything – Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

Amihan’s worst nightmare has come true. She has been torn away from her nanay, and taken to an orphanage. Why? Because her nanay is Touched. And Amihan is not. She is now separated from everything she’s ever known, surrounded by strange children, and kept captive by fear and the cruel Mr Zamora. It is only by the strength of love and new friendships that she is able to protect the flame of hope that burns inside her. She must get back to her nanay before it is too late and she will do everything in her power to do so. The island at the end of everything is waiting for her.

The Island at the End of Everything is a really beautiful book. The themes of love and hope and of the strength of family and friends are very prevalent in this story. The writing was whimsical and imaginative, it fit the story perfectly (if that makes any sense :D). The story itself was very unique and captivating. I’ve never really come across anything like it, and that was a really positive quality about it! (I love unique-ness in books) I really, really enjoyed reading this book – it was beautiful both in the story and in the way it was written, and I loved seeing how it unfolded. I’m giving it a solid 8* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 12+.

~

wdg.jpg

Where Dandelions Grow – Lydia Howe 

Destiny longs to mend the broken relationships within her family. But she needs to find out where her family went first. Her first step towards forgiveness and reconciliation with them is also step of hope when she moves back to the town where she grew up. Through some surprising friendships and a job at a whimsical coffee shop (btw, if I were to find this place actually existed I would go there in a heartbeat because it sounds AMAZING. Seriously, a bookshop combined coffee shop where you can write = pure happiness in my books :D), Destiny will soon find out that life is never quite how you imagined it, but that forgiveness and hope have surprising power.

‘Where Dandelions Grow’ was such a charming book. I bought it because I’ve had previous interaction with the author, Lydia Howe. I’ve followed her blog for years (and loved it! It’s such a great resource for writers and readers alike), and recently had the privilege of beta reading one of her books. I really like her writing, and this book was no exception! The setting, the characters, and the story all melded together into one really sweet book. I loved the character of Destiny – I related to her love for writing so much! The town of Swallow Ridge is described so wonderfully (I wouldn’t mind living there one day! :D), and, like I said before, this coffeebookshop called Noveltea sounds SO cool! ❤ 😀 I loved seeing how Destiny grew throughout the course of the story, and the themes of family and forgiveness were really beautiful and encouraging. I’m giving this book a solid 9* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 13+

~

johnny tremain.jpg

Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes

Johnny Tremain has it all – the apprenticeship he’s been dreaming of, a position of authority among his peers, and a comfortable house to live in. He’s got his life stretched before him, full of possibilities and dreams. But then disaster strikes, and with the cracking of a crucible, everything shatters around him. Unable to continue his apprenticeship, pitied and bullied in turn by his peers, his position replaced in his house, life seems very dark. Alone, unemployed and crippled, Johnny is alone in the wide world, and the world isn’t a very comforting place to be at that moment. Boston in the early 1770s is a hotbed of political unrest, foreign soldiers, and whispers of rebellion. Not exactly the place you’d want to be with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. But some surprising turning of events will soon give Jonny a role in Boston that he never could’ve dreamed of. His life will never be the same after he is swept away in the turning tide of the Revolution….

‘Johnny Tremain’ is an absolutely beautiful, fascinating book. Esther Forbes brings the world of Johnny to life in incredible detail. You can tell that there has been an immense amount of research and time put into making it as historically accurate as possible. And the story itself is stunning. It’s a coming of age story about a boy who has to find who he really is when his identity is stripped away in a tragic accident. It’s an adventure story about a boy who gets caught up in the very heart of the American Revolution. It’s a friendship story showing how relationships can spring out of unlikely places and grow into a bond that ties many hearts together despite differences, distance and death. It’s a historical story, detailing the exciting events that led up to the explosion of shots in Lexington that were heard around the world. It’s a story about perseverance, about healing, about hope, and about freedom. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was my second time reading it. I’m giving it a very solid 9* out of 10 for the historical accuracy and beautifully touching storyline. I’m recommending it for ages 12+.

~

seeking allah finding jesus.jpg

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi 

A devout Muslim sets out to prove Christianity wrong, and has his life transformed by the person he least expected – Jesus.

I picked this book up because I had been studying Islam in school and was interested in learning more detail. I literally read it in less than 24 hours, and goodness gracious, this book is amazing! Seriously, it’s one of the most informative, helpful and fascinating books I’ve read in a very long time. It chronicles the true story of the author on his journey from being a dedicated Muslim to a convinced Christian. Mr Qureshi writes in a very clear, readable manner, but he also manages to convey a very large amount of information within the 300 odd pages of the book. He provides a vivid picture of what it was like growing up in a devout Muslim family, as well as a window into the Islamic culture and beliefs. He gave a clear introduction to the basics of Islam, as well as answering many different questions of why Muslims do the things they do.

Not only that, but he tells the story of how he became a Christian in very intricate detail. His story begins with intense questioning of Christianity, leads to many doubts of Islam, and ends with finding truth in the person of Jesus Christ. He shared the arguments his Christian friend gave for Christianity and how he responded to them as a Muslim, and he gave the reasons why he began to doubt Islam, and the reasons why Christianity began to attract him. His testimony of how he eventually became a Christian is absolutely fascinating (hint: it involves some really amazing dreams!). I came away from this book really encouraged for two reasons:

  1. – This book really bolstered my own faith as I read how Christianity can stand up against intense questioning and is able to convince even the most antagonistic to it. God is at work, and it was so wonderful to read the testimony of how he transformed Mr Qureshi’s life!
  2.  I found that I had a much more rounded picture of Islam and had learnt ways to relate to Muslims more. In this day and age it’s very easy to vilify Muslims without learning the facts about them and what they believe, and I found it really helpful to learn about Islam from someone who had been there himself.

I would really recommend that everyone read this book. For people that know Muslims personally, for people who want to learn more about how Islam relates to Christianity, for people that are searching for the truth themselves, this book is a powerful and educative tool. I’m giving it a very solid 10 out of 10*, and recommending it for anyone and everyone above the ages of about 14. If you go out and buy any book after reading my reviews, this is the one for you to buy!

~

There we are – my top 5 books I read in October! Let’s chat! Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favourite books you read last month?

 

Short Story – Praying for Rain

Welcome back! Today I’m sharing part 2 of the story I began to share last week.

And I also promised a reveal of the title because I couldn’t think of one last week . So, without further ado, let me introduce ‘Praying for Rain’ (part 2)! The title is short and simple, and, I think, suitably captures what this is story about. I hope you enjoy the conclusion! 🙂

~

Another week passes, then another. The horizon remains empty, and the house grows quieter. Everything takes on a dreamlike quality, as if we are moving through a sea of molasses. It takes ten times as long to do my chores. It’s just too hot.

The sky stretches above the fields, tight and blue.

The sun mocks us.

Dust covers everything.

I walk with Papa to the fields. Everything is the same. The plants droop, the ground beneath is cracked.

The corn is dying.

Papa caresses a leaf as he always does, tender in his devotion to his crops. But this time, the leaf doesn’t whisper in his palm. It gives a small broken crackle, and falls apart. Papa stares at the leaf in his hand. I watch, heart aching. Then slowly, he balls his fist around the leave, squeezing until his knuckles turn white. When he opens his hand, dust falls like rain to the dry ground at his feet.

He turns and walks away.

I am left alone, surrounded by acres of corn that has given up hope. My heart aches fiercely behind my faded calico apron. It beats until I feel as if it will choke me. My throat tightens, and tears well over.

“Why?” I whisper. I turn in an aimless circle, trying to comprehend the loss of hope as the cornfields blur in a haze of hot tears.

“Why?” I say it louder, as the tears fall faster.

“God, don’t you hear me?” I shake my fist at the unrelenting sky.

“We need rain. Can’t you see? Just look!” I gesture angrily at the fields around me.

“We need rain.” I cry harder, tears rolling down my cheeks. They create shining tracks on the film of dust that covers me.

“God! If you are there, if you can hear me, then answer me!” I scream up at the sky.

“Send us rain!”

Then I collapse in a dusty heap on the parched earth, my tears soaking into the ground as soon as they roll off my face.

~

Tomorrow arrives, then tomorrow, and another tomorrow. I am numb with despair.

Every morning I stay in bed until I am forced to get up by Mama’s call. I don’t look at the sky. I know what it holds, or rather, what it doesn’t hold.

Every night, I crawl into bed. I don’t pray. Instead I let the tears roll silently down into my ears until I fall into a restless sleep.

I dream of an angry God, holding back rain as a punishment on poor farmers.

I dream of the sky taunting us with the hope of thunder and lightning, but holding back the promise of rain.

And then worst of all, I dream of rain. Sweet, cool refreshing rain that soaks into the ground and brings life and hope once again.

But then I wake up and realize it was just a dream and that I am living in a nightmare.

Hope died with the dust that fell from Papa’s hand that morning.

The rain will never come.

~

I lie in bed, after living through a day that was the same as yesterday. I wonder briefly if tomorrow might break the pattern of dusty monotony, then decide that no, it will not. Tomorrow will be the same as today – hopeless and rainless.

I can hear the low murmur of Papa and Mama talking in the other room. They thought I hadn’t heard them talking earlier, but I had. They were murmuring about giving up the farm, of going to the East to live with Mama’s sister. Whispers that signalled the final end of everything we’d ever hoped, dreamed and lived for.

Tears come much easier now than they used to, and so I lie there, stifling in the darkness, stifling my sobs. Sleep eventually comes, long after their murmurs have stopped and the harvest moon has risen. I am restless, drifting in and out of nightmares that are too close to reality.

Then a noise cuts through my shadowy dreams, jerking me awake. I lie there, panting softly in the heat, straining my eyes in the darkness.

The noise comes again, a strange intermittent tapping that seems to be coming from the roof above me. The tapping grows in intensity and loudness, as if someone is throwing stones randomly from the sky. I cast about in my sleep-fogged brain, trying to identify the noise. It seems vaguely familiar, as if I had dreamt about it long ago.

Then the truth hits me with the force of a train. I leap out of bed, tripping over my discarded clothes in the darkness, crashing into the door. I tear it open, heedless of my elbows or the clothes or the hinges.

“Papa, Mama!” I scream.

Dashing through the kitchen, I pull open the front door.

It is as if heaven stands before me.

The smell of life comes flooding into the house, dispelling the smell of the dust that has filled our nostrils for so long. I look out through tear filled eyes at the rain that thuds onto the ground.

Somehow I find myself in the front yard, screaming for joy. My face is turned up to the sky that drops its long awaited gift upon the earth. I run and jump and skip, my heart singing for joy.

I turn and see Papa dancing with Mama in the puddles of water that have quickly accumulated on the ground. I can’t tell if they’re crying or laughing – I don’t know myself whether I’m crying or laughing. Rain pelts my head and runs heavy down my face, washing away the dust of despair.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I cry over and over again, laughter bubbling up between sobs.

I run to Papa and Mama. I can see the joy dripping from their drenched clothes, feel it radiating from their gleaming smiles. Papa’s eyes flash with light, Mama stands straight and strong.

We join hands and dance together, as the rain pours from the sky.

 

close-up_drop_black_blue_rain_4502_1680x1050

Short Story – …?

Hello everyone! Today I have the first part of a short story for you all to read. It was born on Monday after a brain wave and 2 hours of writing. 😀 And, just to up the tension a bit, I will be revealing its title with the second part next week. (That’s definitely not because I haven’t thought up of a good title yet, or anything. :P) I hope you all will enjoy it!

crops died

Every morning, I stare out over the horizon, longing to see the clouds that mean rain is coming. Every morning the horizon remains empty, curving downwards like a celestial frown of disapproval at my hope.

Every evening, I kneel on the worn floorboards and pray for rain. Every evening I lie on my sagging bed in the stifling heat, wishing for the coolness of a storm. Every evening I drift off to sleep, dreaming of the elusive pattern of raindrops on the roof above me.

But every morning, I wake up. And it hasn’t rained.

~

Papa stares out at the horizon with me, every morning. Then he strides off to inspect the fields. Sometimes I tag along with him. The ground is hard and hot under my feet. Dust puffs up and coats my legs, my dress, and my mouth.

Our fields stretch out almost as far as we can see, up to the horizon. We walk among the rows of corn, planted with such hope and anticipation last spring. The plants droop, tired of the sun, tired of trying to grow. The corn is shrivelling on the cobs, the small kernels withering even smaller, unable to draw sustenance from the barren land. Papa caresses the limp leaves with his work worn hands as he passes through the field. I look up at his face, trying to read what he is thinking. But his thoughts are locked behind the sunburn, and his eyes are hard and sad. Just like the ground we walk over – they let nothing out and nothing in. He doesn’t smile much anymore.

Mama seems to shrivel a little more every day, just like the corn in the fields. The heat gets to her. It wearies her, she says. It wearies me too. It saps all of our energy, taking with it our hopes of a good harvest and another solid payment on the mortgage. Everything is showing signs of weariness. The limp, dust-stained dresses I wear. The shrinking portions of food that Mama serves up in the dusty kitchen. Everything is full of dust and is heavy with the burden of despair.

The days become a monotonous cycle. The same old chores, the same old food, the same old dust, the same old heat. And still, no rain.

I pray more now, hoping that perhaps God might answer if I keep up the petitions long and hard enough. Like that story of the persistent widow that Pastor Brown preached on last Sunday… I murmur prayers while I sweep the dust out of the house, while I feed the chickens, while I walk with Papa among the fields. “Please, send us rain.”

The prayer for rain rings in everyone’s hearts. When we go to town for Sunday church, we sit on the benches in the schoolhouse-turned-church and sing hymns, all the while praying for rain. We listen to Pastor preach about persistent widows, and Joseph’s coat of many colours, and how the Prophet Elijah held back rain as God’s punishment for Israel’s disobedience.

I wonder if perhaps God is punishing us for disobeying him. But it isn’t just us. It’s the whole town, the whole state, and maybe even the whole country. Words like ‘depression’ and ‘dust bowl’ and ‘heading North with the harvest’ are whispered between people as they file out of church after the sermon. No one stays long to talk. It’s too hot to be standing around in the glaring sun-filled schoolyard.

I walk home between Mama and Papa. We’re silent.

~

Summer slips by fast. The days all seem to melt into one hot nightmare. The corn shrivels even faster than Mama does. Papa grows quieter. And I pray even more.

One morning something cruel happens. Papa and I are standing together, looking at the horizon like we always do. It is hazy, but empty. We turn to go in, but I look back just once.

My heart stops.

There is a cloud.

I tug on Papa’s sleeve, calling for him to look. The cloud seems to grow bigger, and another one joins is. I look up at Papa, and for the first time all summer, I see a gleam in his eyes.

We watch all morning, sitting on the porch steps in the dust. The clouds grow bigger, blotting the horizon. The wind picks up, brushing my face with its cool fingers. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the wind. The dust rises from the ground, choking us as it dances in the air.

But still we stay. Watching. Waiting. Hoping. “Please, send rain.” I whisper. The clouds grow bigger, and my heart leaps within my chest. Even Mama is watching, leaning out of the kitchen window.

But as we watch, the clouds turn away. Like a child moves his toys in play, they seem to be moved by an unseen hand up in the sky. They turn west, and then grow smaller. The wind dies down. The dust settles.

And then the clouds slip over the horizon.

My heart sinks like a stone, dragging my hope down with it. Mama shuts the window. I can hear dishes clattering like the tolling of funeral bells. I look at Papa. His eyes are blank once again.

~

Part 2 coming next week! 🙂

(Read Part 2 here)