Wednesday, 7 September 2016

TLC Book Tours Review of Beulah's House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham

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Beulah's House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham
Pages: 224 pages
Publisher: Brick Mantel Books (July 12, 2016)
Source: Publisher/TLC Book Tours


Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of 'Beulah's House Of Prayer' was provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Read in August 2016
Some storms bring destruction. Others bring salvation.
In 1934 the tiny town of Barmy, Oklahoma, is in desperate need of a miracle. The cows are hungry, the rain won’t fall, most of Main Street is boarded up. Young aspiring trapeze artist Sugar Watson is dumped unceremoniously into this bleak setting with little money and only one thing on her mind—escape. Beulah Clinton, a Holy Ghost preacher, has dedicated herself to helping the distressed in this ragged little wasteland, and Sugar soon finds herself thrown in with Marigold Lawford, the simple-minded widow of the richest man in town, and Homer Guppy, a boy trouble follows like dust after a wind.
Despite Sugar’s immediate distaste of Barmy, Beulah’s patience, Marigold’s kindness, and Homer’s unconditional love make her reconsider the meaning of home.
On Black Sunday, the worst dust storm in history brings with it a choice: Sugar must decide whether or not to return home, leaving the hospitality—and love—of Barmy’s inhabitants. A stunning Depression-era literary novel with a touch of magical realism, Beulah’s House of Prayer captivates until the very end.

My Thoughts:
I read ''Beneath Still Waters' by Cynthia A Graham back in March of this year and was very impressed with her debut historical crime novel so when 'Beulah's House of Prayer' popped up for review with the 'TLC Book Tours', I jumped at the chance to be a tour host.

Beulah Clinton, a kindly but fierce lay preacher, surprisingly isn't the main character of this story however she is the pivital character that the townsfolk's lives revolve around in this desolate dusty town.  She arrives in Barmy with just her wagon drawn by two mules and sets up a boarding house where anyone in need of sustenance or comfort is always welcome.

Sugar Watson, the narrator's mother finds herself stranded in town with little more than her fathers trunk and a coffin with his body inside. Self centred, with a tendency towards spitefulness when things do not go her way, Sugar is not a likeable young girl.  With nowhere to go she reluctantly accepts Beulah's offer to stay for as long as she needs at the boarding house with her and another homeless boarder, Marigold Lawford a sweet natured, put upon young widow.

Several of the chapters begin with an event reminiscent in the narrators mind which gently blend into the narration of the past to continue the storyline.

Barmy is a 'godforsaken' place frequented by huge, violent dust storms which bring bad health and life threatening ailments in its wake. It tirelessly seeps in through every tiny crack or crevice and into homes to be inhaled and ingested by everyone. Dust tirelessly coats household surfaces no matter how many times it is cleaned away. There is no escape even from within the safety of their homes. The storms appear to foretell the arrival of bad news, upheavals, and crisis points for the townsfolk, with one almighty storm towards the end of the book bringing with it devastation and revelation in biblical proportions.

At times it is an immensely touching tale with scenes so tender and heartbreaking that I was moved to tears. One such scene is of Homer Guppy, the towns 'bad boy' who doesn't want to leave the side of the dying Sugar because she would be afraid to be alone in the dark. (It's okay, no spoilers given.) The characters were utterly believable and I felt fully invested in them, I watched them grow, learn about love, sacrifice, and to care for, and be cared about, it genuinely hurt to feel their pain.

Moments of humour are also evident as shown in a scene where Homer and Sugar are busy digging hole after hole in the yard, trying to find Beulah's buried mason jars full of money, unaware that they are being watched by an amused Beulah through the kitchen window.

Beulah's House of Prayer is set during the depression era of the 1930's in the 'Dust Bowl' days of the Oklahoma Panhandle and is written with such depth of character, a light touch of southern gothic, and accompanied by a twist of magical realism. It was an absolute delight to read.

Ultimately it is a tale of coming to terms with what you have and who you are, taking a long hard look at yourself and making amends. It is also about patience, friendship, hope, healing, redemption and forgiveness, and above all the power of love.

I highly recommend this quick, heartwarming tale.

About Cynthia A. Graham
Cynthia A. Graham is the winner of several writing awards, including a Gold IPPY and a Midwest Book Award for Beneath Still Waters, and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. She attained a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writers’ Guild, the Missouri Writers’ Guild, and Sisters in Crime. She is the author of two works of historical mystery: Beneath Still Waters and Behind Every Door. Beulah’s House of Prayer is her first foray in the land of magical realism.

Praise for Beulah's House of Prayer:
“Cynthia A. Graham’s novel, Beulah’s House of Prayer, is chock-full of what Flannery O’Connor called ‘large and startling figures.’ But these are not caricatures; they are people with whom you will fall in love and think you know in real life. You will care about their travails and want to turn to that last page to see what becomes of them—but with Dust Bowl descriptions reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, a break-neck speed conclusion, and a fascinating love story in the mix, you’ll be conflicted about how fast you want to get there.” —David Armand, author, The Gorge, Harlow, and The Pugilist s Wife

“Beulah’s House of Prayer blends the stark reality of Steinbeck and the grace and imagery of Willa Cather into a beautifully-rendered story of struggle and faith in Depression and Dust Bowl era Oklahoma a place where ‘communion is the wheat I grow and the blood I sweat.’  Steeped in metaphor, this moving novel is at once compelling and poetic. It is the kind of story that often finds its way onto the big screen. One heck of a good read!” —Dixon Hearne, author, From Tickfaw to Shongaloo and Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope.

Cynthia A. Graham’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, September 6th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, September 7th: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, September 9th: Buried Under Books
Monday, September 12th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, September 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, September 19th: FictionZeal
Wednesday, September 21st: Write Read Life