Sarah Loudin Thomas’ newest novel is headed straight for my re-read shelf. Though I was a bit skeptical when it came to the 1950’s rich girl/poor boy storyline, it was so much more than this.
Judd Markley is a coal miner and war veteran who decides to leave his home in the mountains of West Virginia to follow the dreams of his younger brother, Joe, after surviving a cave in. Without experience or any contacts, he sets off to find work “timbering” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he encounters weather and people unlike any he had ever known. His acquaintance with his new boss’s daughter gets off to a bit of a rocky start, partly due to Larkin Hayward’s well-meaning naiveté.
He walked away, not even caring if his limp showed. He didn’t need anyone’s pity or help. Least of all a pampered Southern girl who didn’t even know the half of his story or the story of his people back home in poor, backwards West Virginia. (p.32)
It was also that potentially condescending desire of a rich 21 year old girl to help those less fortunate, where such help is not wanted, that had me prepared to dislike Larkin as a character. Her work as a Candy Striper began to wear me down, however, and just like Judd, I was won over by her joyous nature. I found I quite liked them as a couple well before the end. Not without a bit of frustration, however, as Larkin makes some poor decisions and they each try to figure out what and who they are meant to be.
Judd Markley was an enigma, and she didn’t have the time or the inclination to unravel him. (p.52)
As joyous and charmingly naive as Larkin is, Judd is endearingly humble, and admirable in his care for others and straightforward nature. The reactions that they have to manipulations by others and different attitudes they encounter kept me reading late into the night.
Rain had begun falling again like someone flipped a switch, and the wind lashed at his clothes like it wanted to strip him bare. And maybe he was laid bare standing there with nature roaring around him and grief washing over him. But this time he felt the grief pass through and come out the other side. It had been struck in his craw for too long. (p.96)
There is so much story packed within this novel and I have never enjoyed weather quite so much in a work of fiction. The flipping of being a bit of a fish out of water from Judd to Larkin was an interesting twist, with the story returning to the Appalachian region and introducing new characters, the formidable Granny Jane standing out most in my mind.
“If’n you’re gonna catch that man or any other, you’d best learn how to cook. We’ll fry up some fatback, too. Both of you need some meat on them bones.”
Judd hid his smile as he headed out to the porch…Larkin was in for an education and he wished he could just sit and watch. Maybe he’d get clearer on his own feelings if he could see how this Southern flower handled mountain life as taught by an old woman born to rough ways. (p.169)
Both the Appalachians and the South Carolina coast are depicted with details that bring the 1950’s setting to life. From the weather to the assortment of secondary characters, the struggles with faith, purpose, honesty, and manipulation come together with the slow building romance of Judd and Larkin for a heart-warming and enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas | Bethany House, Nov. 2017 | paperback, 336 pages
I voluntarily received a finished copy for review through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program. All opinions expressed are my own.
In the Dark of the Mine, In the Face of Rising Water,
In the Shadows of the Hills, Faith Will See Them Through
Judd Markley knows he can never set foot underground again. The mine collapse that nearly killed him and claimed his brother’s life means leaving West Virginia forever. Although that hard Appalachian world is all he knows, he puts it behind him and heads for the open sky of the thriving town of 1954 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Larkin Heyward’s life in the beach town is uncomplicated, mostly volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more and being more–maybe moving to the hills and hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.
Drawn together in the wake of a hurricane that changes Myrtle Beach forever, Judd’s and Larkin’s dreams pull them in divergent directions. It will take a significant sacrifice to keep them together–or maybe, it will take a miracle.