Out of the Dust
By Karen Hesse
Out of the Dust takes place in Oklahoma during the dust bowl of 1934-1935. Billie Joe a long-legged redheaded girl always dreamed of seeking her fortune playing fierce piano where grass grew leaving the stirring dust behind. Billie Joe turns fifteen during the story she finds herself motherless after her father Bayard leaves a pail of kerosene on the stove, it catches fire, Billie throws it out the door catching her pregnant mother on fire and badly burning her hands. She is filled with guilt and blame but it truly was an accident later on her mother died giving birth to her stillborn son Franklin. When the two were buried, it was turning point for Billie Joe and her father. Her life was wrecked never to be what it had been viewing herself as a cripple. Her and her father grow more distant she tries filling her mother's role but finds it impossible.
Her scarred hands hurt cooking and cleaning, she can't bare to look at the piano, her mothers piano. They eat dust-covered food, the wheat crops are destroyed and Bayard a stubborn farmer hopes for rain. When she can't take it anymore she runs away with the dimes saved for her to study music and a few biscuits while on the train to Arizona she becomes lonely realizing she might have left Oklahoma and her sick father escaping the dust but she couldn't escape herself. The dust made her strong, it was part of her at least her and her father had each other she knew she had to go home. At the train station her dad was there to pick her up and she called him Daddy for the first time since Ma died. She explained to him that Oklahoma was inside her and that she needed a father. For the first time since Ma died, he actually listened and understood. As they walked home, she forgave him and slowly forgave herself.
The message of hope, and change echoes throughout this book as well as the importance of discovering oneself and where we really belong. As one reads you can see how Billie Joe matures and how she learns from the hard times. Karen Hesse did a beautiful job dealing with this as we see the range in the girl's emotions and the times when she hides how she feels. Teens need to learn how to survive. On a scale of one to ten it is in the middle which might be harsh but the character development was poor leaving much to be decided by the reader. The almost verse writing style Hesse used seemed to be out of place with the depth and topic of the story. It was amazing though how she could convey so much in so little words but as a reader it left more to be desired. The ending was different not what I expected but it fit with the flow of the story. I liked the fact that Hesse was brutally honest not one page was sugarcoated. This book is light though subject matter deep using simple words, short phrases and sentences it's altogether easy to read. I disliked her writing style being different as it was
From the start this book can be interesting or boring depending on your taste I found it both. It can be depressing (as all Newberry winners are) so I'd recommend it to those who like compelling stories and the truth of hard times in history. Despite my rating and what I think of the book I enjoyed it and highly recommend it someday I might read it again.