Jim Hawley is a Wyoming doctor with a strong interest in the American Civil War. Rain Upon the Blinding Dust is a short novel (one might call it a novella) about two young men who participate in that war: an escaped slave and a drummer boy. They meet on the battlefield and form a bond, despite the differences in their ages and backgrounds. One is instrumental in saving the life of the other.
There are no significant subplots or complications. The plot is as straightforward as the language. Here, for example, is a scene from the middle of the book:
“John get your gear together. We move out in thirty minutes.” John picked up his musket and slung the cartridge pouch over his left shoulder. He hurried forward trying to hold his musket and button his tunic at the same time. He pulled up short. “My drum!” he shouted. “Forget it” yelled Ben, “Just get your musket. We got a fight a-brewin’.”
The directness of the language and plot make this a very accessible book for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
The title of the novel comes from a quote from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations: “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are the rain upon the blinding dust of earth.” Hawley begins each chapter with a different and relevant quotation – many, but not all from the Bible. One of the most affecting is from “Jeremiah”: “For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.”
The novel deals with boys having to become men overnight in a desperate and dangerous time. As its characters come to life, they are convincingly young, brave and afraid. As such, this would be the perfect book for young adults with an interest in history.
Also available in hardcover.