Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Devil in the Dust by Cara Luecht

Posted October 11, 2017 by meezcarrie in Cara Luecht, Christian, giveaway, historical / 13 Comments

about the book

June 1933

Their small Oklahoma town is dying. Lillian remembers how acres and acres of wheat once waved under jewel-blue skies. Now the dirt stretches across the flat land as far as she can see.

Emma’s husband is missing. She keeps house, keeps her five children fed as best as she can, and keeps smiling as her hope fades. But when the days stretch to weeks, she faces the possibility that he will never come home. Left with the likelihood of losing their farm, and the ever-present pangs of hunger, she is forced to consider opportunities that, under normal circumstances, she would never contemplated.

Jessie, Emma’s oldest daughter, completes her tasks as if numb. Forced to wear her mother’s shoes to avoid the humiliation of bare feet, she watches the dead, dirt road for signs of life.

And then he comes.

His new car and shiny shoes and generous way with gifts and money catch Jessie’s eye, much to the dismay of her mother … and much to the concern of the minister’s wife, Lillian. He’s too smooth, too willing to help, and much too eager to spend time with a girl less than half his age. But who is to say he is not the miracle they all prayed for?

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GENRE: Inspirational Historical Fiction
PUBLISHER: Heritage Beacon Fiction
RELEASE DATE: April 3, 2017
PAGES: 303

“They’d chosen to see God’s providence in the easy times then wrestled with the flip side of the same coin.”

Devil in the Dust is richly written with many layers and a thread of hope in the midst of sobering realities. In fact you can almost feel the grit of the dust in your teeth and on your skin, so vividly does Luecht set the scene.

The three women whose perspectives carry the story are at once heartbreaking and inspiring, their fierce will to survive partnering with the soul-weariness of their situations. I grieved with them on several occasions, my heart so touched by the hopelessness that invaded their community.

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Emma in particular captured my attention. She reminded me of this iconic photograph documenting a mother during the Dust Bowl era. Trying desperately to hold on to hope, but gradually losing the battle as the harsh wind whips against her resolve and the scorching drought withers her spirit.

In fact, Devil in the Dust is really a story of hope, despite its bleak subject and plot turns. It’s a reminder that hope in anything (or anyone) besides Jesus will disappoint us. Sometimes bitterly and painfully so. Only a hope grounded in Him becomes a battle cry with a sure victory. Even if nothing around you changes, He is faithful. This isn’t an easy truth to hear … or to embrace … when life is hard. But their story inspires me to cling to this promise: “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

Bottom Line: Devil in the Dust by Cara Luecht completely captivates you and hits all your emotions. The setting and characters are so vividly drawn that you feel as though you are there in their midst. Luecht seamlessly incorporates a heartbreaking time in Midwest US history and points readers to the only One who can give us strength to face our worst-case scenarios. A riveting read on every level!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4.5 stars / Love it!

Reviewer’s Note: Readers may want to be aware that this book contains some scenes of domestic violence that are troubling to read.

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about the author

Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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Other Books by Cara Luecht


Why I wrote Devil in the Dust.

One Sunday after church, we decided to go to lunch with another family. We hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know this couple well, but the conversation was amazing, we laughed until we almost cried, and I’m pretty sure the restaurant manager was glad to see us go.

On the way out, the topic grew more serious, and I mentioned something that worried me. It was maybe a sentence—I was not baring my soul—but the woman with whom we had spent the last couple of delightful hours stopped, blinked, and put up her wall-of-a-Christian-smile. In an instant, I knew I had been judged as negative. You see, for many Christians, the mantras of “the battle is already won,” “faith will get you through,” and the largely American “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” have drowned out the quieter mandate to care.

I went home chased by the feeling that, somehow, I didn’t measure up. And for a time, I dredged that place of overthinking, attempting to float a reason out of that murky pond where insecurity hides.

Of course, I came up with nothing, and decided to put my efforts into deciding what my next novel would be. Unfortunately (or fortunately), at this stage, every little life experience has potential for use.

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While I had been undecided on theme, I knew I wanted the setting for the novel to be in the dustbowl in the 1930s. I began researching, and I realized the scope and human impact of this disaster was much larger than I had remembered from history class. More importantly, it lasted an entire decade. For a decade, people dealt with hunger and drought and death from breathing in the ultra-fine soot. Children were lost. Families abandoned their farms. People survived on rations of canned government meat…and that’s when they were lucky. Many felt cursed.

Life was hard. I imagine that smiles were rare, even in the church.

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I started thinking about what it would take for a community to survive devastation on this scale. I considered the kind of people who make up a town: merchants, teachers, police, farmers, and ministers. And while merchants and teachers, along with everyone else, would feel the change brought on by the slow death of a drought, for a minister it would be different. A minister’s purpose is to bring people the good news of the gospel. Technically, their job would stay exactly the same, except every phrase they spoke would shift in meaning because the context—the lives of those sitting in the pews—had changed so dramatically.

Growing up as the child of a pastor, I have some knowledge about how a minister’s home works. And in all my research I was left with one question: How could a minister preach every Sunday to a congregation of people who had lost everything with no hope for improvement anytime soon?

I moved my research to the Bible, and when I did, I came across the story of Lazarus. I have heard and read this story countless times, but in the light of trying to puzzle out what a pastor might do in a situation where it looks like all has been lost, I realized something about the story that I had never considered. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he cried with Lazarus’ sisters. He shared in their grief even though he knew it would end. He stayed there with them in that moment of sorrow.

I came to the conclusion that during times of suffering, our responsibility to others should look nothing like that drought-of-a-Christian-smile that I met outside that restaurant. Rather, it should emulate Jesus’ example. When we make Christianity only about victory, and turn faith into a wish book, we strip it of its most powerful message: hope. Not eternal hope, but the hope of not being alone. More often than not, we lack the ability to change someone’s circumstances. What we can do is come up alongside someone and help carry their burden even if only for a few minutes. Christianity is not a way to avoid suffering, it’s about finding meaning through the suffering.

I wrote Devil in the Dust as an exploration of what it means to be a Christian while standing in the midst of a desert. Told through the voices of three women who endure the quiet shame of poverty, Devil in the Dust is a story about what happens to faith when everything goes wrong.

To celebrate her tour, Cara is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copy of Devil in the Dust!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

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This giveaway is hosted by Celebrate Lit, not RimSP
Follow along with the tour for more chances to win!

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13 responses to “Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Devil in the Dust by Cara Luecht

  1. Penny Mooney

    You really got the true meaning of God’s word. We always have Jesus with us during our hard time. I think Foot Prints in the Sand is my most favorite poem and plaque. I know from personal experience that Jesus was with me or I would have lost my mind to grief. Never forget that he is always with us carrying us when we need it. Thank you for this lovely book. This era was one of the worst. My mom and dad lived through it and some of their stories were shocking.

  2. Patty

    The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl are not times we read about often. These were not so very long ago in our country… we are blessed to be living in the times we are.

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