Plot: Clifton crafts a multilayered story set in a small town in the Bible Belt, where family ties run deep and a long-ago disappearance continues to haunt the community. Clifton's narrative delivers a powerful sense of place and time, while the circumstances of a cold case coming to light are riveting and gracefully revealed.
Prose: The author's commanding and evocative prose shines not only in her atmospheric descriptions of the Oklahoma town at the novel's center, but in the exploration of character motivations, internal dialogues, and character interactions.
Originality: Stories of cold cases reopened and family secrets unveiled are hardly new, but Clifton's staging of the circumstances are particularly arresting and memorable.
Character Development: Characters are nuanced, compelling, and distinctive. As tension mounts between family members and the community at-large, Clifton successfully weaves together puzzling past events while conveying how they continue to reverberate in the novel's crackling present moment.
Date Submitted: June 14, 2019
Seeking Grace in Beulah Land
978-0-9985284-4-1 (pbk) Price: $15.99
978-0-9985284-5-8 (e-book) Price: $ 7.99
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Seeking Grace in Beulah Land charts the progress of the cold case of a missing wife and mother, Grace Barlow, whose husband quietly accepted her disappearance and continued on with his life as a sharecropper in a rural Oklahoma community. Sixty years later, it falls upon grandson Mack Barlow to uncover the truth when he returns home to investigate his 87-year-old grandfather's increasingly bizarre behavior, only to discover a family secret that will change not only his life, but a small community.
Lu Clifton's story excels in fine descriptions of this rural Oklahoma environment, from family relationships, Mack's investigations, and community culture: "He figured the burr-headed realtor to be a steamroller when it
came to persuading someone to her point of view. People with Cadillac appetites were turned that way. She had probably pitched his idea to the builder at the gated community that very day, which meant he needed to look
at that agreement fast. But time was on his side as Mama and Sister planned to visit Pa after they left the Hometown Buffet, then stop at the filling station to gas up."
As the characters begin keeping secrets from and vying with each other, from siblings Sister and Ruby's growing distance to an evolving feud instigated by Mack with the Turners, their land-hungry neighbors, it becomes apparent the secret is tearing apart friends, family, and neighbors alike. From
mysterious watchers to missing mules and accidents waiting to happen, tension slowly ratchets up as Mack untangles a web of complexity in a relentless attempt to reveal a long-dead truth.
Mack believes he's doing the right thing-but, is he? From peace of mind to legal proceedings that seem to involve the Turners, events move from slow to fast-paced, successfully immersing readers in the psyche and simmering
secrets of a small town on the brink of discovery.
Seeking Grace in Beulah Land isn't a mystery per se; leaning toward the literary, the storyline reaches for broader emotional and social depth. It's a satisfyingly engrossing, close examination of a family married to the land, and what happens when war and nightmares change everything. The truth
about Beulah Land's real legacy complicates the lives of the people, politics, and personalities of Oklahoma in a manner that powerfully examines rural life, concerns, relationships, and the consequences of choices past and present.
Readers seeking an engrossing blend of rural history and family and community intrigue will relish this saga, which centers around land ownership, management, and the life-altering results of land lost and found: "A man might lay claim to a piece of land, he thought, but in the end, it
was the land that claimed the man."
-- D. Donovan, Senior Editor, Midwest Book Review