Monday, December 11, 2017

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas, © 2017

Cover Art

My Review:

Judd Markley had a different day than planned; never hoped for by any man. But, at least he was safe for now. The bowels of the earth had released him again for another day. Miners expected to be confronted with the unexpected, not knowing what a day would bring. Underground was just that way ~ uncertain and unaffected by disturbance ~ it just kept to itself unless attacked by a pickax and chose to revolt. Cutting away the earth for treasures ~ needed for warmth and care of families in the Appalachia mountain pathways. Maybe there would be a new way now, away from West Virginia and the pain of loss.

Myrtle Beach 1954  Photo cred - Jack Thompson
Myrtle Beach 1954 Photo credit - Jack Thompson

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ~ 1954
Image result for 1948 buick roadmaster
Judd Markley
I've gotten a job loading pine logs for a lumber plantation and find it alright work. Hot and sticky, but above ground, anyway. Sand is different from the rocky soil I have known back home. I met the boss's daughter, Larkin, the day I got the job. She's young, carefree, and loves her convertible. Oh, to have no sad memories to hold me back. How did I ever get here ~ to an expected place of warmth and restoration? Again, nothing calm and certain to shelter me...

Myrtle Beach, SC, Ocean Front Pavilion 1954 Postcard
Myrtle Beach, SC, Ocean Front Pavilion 1954 Postcard
Image result for the Pavilion 1954 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Larkin Heyward
This is all I have ever known. I want to go to help those who need to have my help ~ like those in need of learning in the Appalachian mountains I have read about in a magazine recently. I volunteer at our local hospital. Maybe Daddy will let me go off to school to be a nurse. I love going to the Pavilion to dance in the evenings. My girlfriends go with me and we enjoy burgers and fries and the lively music. A new man has hired on. Maybe I can learn from him about the people he is from. He talks differently than me.
~* Judd managed because of his skills and keeping confidences. Because of who he was, he would fit anywhere it seems.
~* Larkin didn't fare as well, except for Granny Jane's grace in teaching her to use a cookstove. I have hopes for her.

I enjoyed reading how these families adjusted to changes. Both the acceptance and wariness when someone new comes to an area they aren't born to or know.
Image result for hurricane 1954 myrtle beach south carolina

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.
Image result for hurricane 1954 myrtle beach south carolina   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.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas ~ Chapter 1

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
                                                                                                Jonah 2:6 NIV


Bethel, West Virginia
April 1954

Judd wanted to take a deep breath more than anything. But the weight on his chest, combined with the dust-laden air, made it impossible. He closed his eyes and opened them again, finding it made no difference. Either he was blind or the cave-in had erased any hint of light. He coughed and spit.
   Darkness pressed against him almost as hard as the silence. There should have been the hum of machinery, the clink of pickaxes against coal, men’s voices. He moved his hands and felt relief at the sensation of ten fingers brushing against rough stone. He couldn’t move much, but at least he knew he was alive.
   Continuing to take stock, he found he couldn’t move anything below his waist. That must be the weight of the rock and maybe some timbers. Surely his legs and feet were still there. And nothing hurt too terrible—that was good. He shifted his head and realized there was a boot pressed against his cheek. It scared him so bad he cussed. Then he felt awful—that might be Harry’s foot. Not Joe’s, though—he’d been working that other, narrower seam. He hoped Harry and Joe had time to start out toward the entrance.
   Judd found he could breathe a little easier—the dust must have settled. He wished he could reach up and wipe the grit from his lips. He spit again and tried to settle his mind to wait. He’d never been afraid of tight spaces, and maybe it was good he couldn’t see to know how bad his situation was. And yet . . . the darkness had become a tangible thing. He could almost feel it brushing across his skin. Fear welled in him, and he gritted his teeth against it. There was nothing he could do, no one he could call out to. He guessed Ma would tell him to pray, but he was a man of action and it wasn’t like God would reach down into the bowels of the earth and pluck him out. He exhaled through pursed lips just to hear the sound of air moving and maybe, just maybe, there were words buried in that breath.
   After what seemed like an eternity, Judd heard a sound. Or thought he did. It might just be his ears wanting to hear something. A few minutes later, he heard a voice for sure and certain and saw a chink of light. His very being quivered, the sudden burst of hope almost more than he could bear. It took at least another hour before the men got to him, their lanterns flashing against the debris and hurting his light-starved eyes.
   “Don’t move, Judd, we’ve gotta get this beam off before we can dig you out.”
   “Ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he said.
   Martin Burr grunted as he shifted some more rock. “Reckon you ain’t.”
   Finally, Judd felt the weight on his chest ease. He took a good breath and thought maybe he did hurt some. He saw Martin’s grim face. The older man flinched and told Judd to brace himself. Pain seared his very soul, and Judd didn’t know anything more.

   When he woke, Judd’s first thought was that he was still trapped in the mine. But the astringent smell and the squeak of a nurse’s shoes in the hall let him know he was in a hospital. He glanced to his right and saw a curtain drawn across a window. The room was barely lit—must be nighttime. To his left, he could see the shape of another man in another bed. He hoped it was Joe.
   Judd took that deep breath he’d been wanting back in the mine and moaned. He’d broken some ribs, sure as shootin’. Once the pain eased, he began to inventory his condition. Both hands worked fine. He reached up to rub the sleep from his eyes and found his right shoulder to be stiff but workable. He felt along his torso until he came to the bandages around his rib cage. Next he wiggled his toes—the left foot seemed fine, but his right leg appeared to be suspended some way—immobile. He was afraid to move around much, tender as his ribs were, but at least all his limbs were attached. That was something.
   Footsteps approached, and a nurse stepped inside the room.
   “Mr. Markley. You’re awake.”
   “Yes, ma’am. And I’m powerful thirsty.”
   “I’m not surprised—you’ve been here most of three days now.” She slipped over to the side of the bed and held a cup with a straw to his lips. The water slipped over his tongue like the first drink after a day spent in the hayfield. He guessed maybe he hadn’t died after all.
   “How are you feeling?”
   “With my hands.” Judd grinned and felt his dry lips crack. He licked them. “Guess I feel pretty good for a dead man.”
   The nurse smiled. “You’re actually quite lucky, Mr. Markley. The doctors thought they’d have to take off that leg, but it looks like you’ll get to keep it a little longer.”
   Judd tried to feel lucky, but found it beyond him at the moment. A sound came from the other bed, and he looked over to see Harry leaning over the bed rail.
   “Well if you ain’t a sight for sore eyes. I was afeared we lost you.”
   “Not this time around,” Judd said. “You must not be hurt too bad, sitting up there all lively like that.”
   Harry gave the nurse an appreciative look. “These gals would just about make a dead man sit up and take notice.”
   The nurse made a harrumphing sound but didn’t seem displeased. “I’m going to leave you boys to catch up. Breakfast will be around shortly.”
   Harry swung his legs over the side of his bed and squinted at Judd. “You’re lucky to be alive, son. I was farther out than you and just got knocked around a little, but I thought you was a goner for sure.”
   “What about Joe?”
   Harry blinked once. “Aww, they patched him up and sent him home. He’ll be back at it afore the week’s out.”
   “Say, whose foot was pressed up against my face then? If it wasn’t you, then who the heck was it?”
   Harry ducked his head. “Judd. That was your foot. That’s how come your leg’s all wrapped up like that. You’ve got enough steel in there to shoe a couple of horses.”
   Judd reached down and realized the heavy cast came clear up to his waist. “Am I gonna walk again?”
   “Don’t see why not. Seems like they wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble to give you a dead weight to drag around.”
   Judd rolled his head against the pillow, remembering the rough scrape of the boot against his cheek. His boot. He was beginning to feel pain all over—in his rib cage, his hips, his back. Seemed like everything but the hair on his head was starting to hurt.
   “Son, you don’t look so good. I’m gonna get that nurse back in here.”
   Judd thought to accuse his friend of calling the nurse back so he could get another look at her, but he didn’t have the grit to make a joke. He nodded and closed his eyes, grateful that even then, light filtered through his eyelids.

   The nurse must’ve given him something to make him sleep. When Judd woke the second time, the first thing he realized was that he felt about half-starved. ’Course, he also felt like he’d been in a tussle with a freight train and lost, but he decided to focus on hungry. You couldn’t eat if you were dead, and in the dark of the mine he’d thought he might be dead for longer than he liked to remember.
   He pried his eyes open and found Harry sitting beside his bed, staring at him. There was also a tray on a table with a bowl of something that might’ve been hot once.
   “That stuff fit to eat?” he asked.
   Harry swallowed convulsively and pushed the bowl toward him. “I et mine and it didn’t do me no harm. You need help spooning it up?”
   Judd braced himself and pushed up a notch, grimacing as pain shot through him in so many places he couldn’t narrow it down to say what hurt. “If I do, I’ll ask that good-looking nurse.”
   He reached for the spoon and tasted some kind of bean soup. It was barely warm, but he swallowed it down and wished for a piece of corn bread and maybe a glass of cool buttermilk. His throat still felt raw and parched from the coal dust. Harry sat and watched like a hound dog hoping for a crumb.
   “Harry, I appreciate your concern, but you’re crowding me a mite. You want some soup?”
   Harry ducked his head and shifted in his chair. “I’ve got something to tell ya. I been waiting for you to wake up and eat—wanted you to get what rest you could.”
   Judd swallowed and left his spoon, which was getting downright heavy, in the half-empty bowl. “Spit her out, then.”
   “It’s Joe. I lied about him being alright.” Harry fisted his hands on his knees. “Them nurses said you needed time to heal afore I told you, but I don’t hold with lying and it’s been weighing on me.” He lifted his head to meet Judd’s eyes. “Joe didn’t make it. Looks like he died straight out—got hit in the head and probably didn’t know nothing about it.” Harry’s Adam’s apple bobbed and he lowered his eyes again. “I know you was real close to your brother, I couldn’t see keeping it from you.”
   Judd felt like the weight of the mountain was centered on his chest once again. He fought for air as surely as he had in the dark of the mine. Not Joe. Not his baby brother who’d always had dreams enough for both of them. He should have died; he should have found Joe and taken his place. He closed his eyes and focused on the pain in his ribs, his leg, his head—anything but the pain in his heart.
Sarah Loudin Thomas, The Sound of Rain Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017.

Sarah Loudin Thomas
Photo Credit: © Kristen Delliveniri
Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fundraiser for a children's ministry and has written for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Then magazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times. She is the author of Miracle in a Dry Season, Until the Harvest, and A Tapestry of Secrets. She holds a BA in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in Asheville, North Carolina. She can be found online at her website.

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending this copy of The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***


  1. This is so cool! I LOVE that picture of Myrtle Beach--that's it!!

  2. :) Thank you for your wonderful story to envision their days. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House


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