Book: Peculiar Savage Beauty: A Novel
Author: Jessica McCann
Publisher: Perspective Books
Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5 Stars
Rosa Jean hasn’t been Rosa Jean for a while. Growing up into a self-determined woman during a time when feminine wiles meant finding a good husband instead of a good career, her choice to study to become a geologist and soil scientist wasn’t met with the greatest amount of support. But Rosa Jean, determined as she was to help people survive the dust storms of the mid-1930s re-named herself RJ, studied, and became exactly what she wanted and needed to be. Now, she’s back in her home town, setting up a place to study the soils around the area and find a way to help the local farmers work with and combat the black blizzard that is plaguing the area. But she’s got her work cut out for her. From old demons that haunt her memories to people that are steadfastly resistant to change, the dust storms of the Midwest aren’t the only dangers RJ faces.
I have to admit, I was impressed by the author’s grasp of the life of a female geologist, and especially the experience of a dust storm. For many years I’ve worked as a geologist, and I have experienced a few of them myself, although not to the scale experienced by those in the 1930s. And let me tell you, the author’s description is spot on. The dirt and grime does get into absolutely everything. It’s plain to see the amount of time and research she put into the setting, time period, and overall social constructs that existed during that time. This is one of the few books out there where the time period and setting almost becomes a character in and of itself.
Unfortunately, where this book falls a little bit short is in the characters themselves. And it’s not because they are not well written; they are. However, against the vibrant and engaging setting, they seem to fall a bit flat. Ethel, the well meaning waitress seems to be only that. RJ is a young woman determined to make things right in the world, no matter the cost to herself. Woody is an autistic savant who has an amazing memory. There are hints of more depth, more characteristics of course, but they are rarely shown beyond these hints, and are quickly overshadowed by the setting and time.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. As a book of historical fiction it provides one of the best ways to lose yourself in a time period I’ve seen in a long time.
0 Stars — Perfect for wasting space on your hard drive or kindling.
1 Star — Perfect gift for that person you can’t stand
2 Stars — Put it on your “to borrow” list
3 Stars — Buy it if you get the chance; worth a weekend read.
4 Stars — Definitely add it to your library
5 Stars — Impulse buy approved
© 2018, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.