A Song of Home

Written by Susie Finkbeiner
Review by Ellen Keith

A Song of Home is the third and last in Finkbeiner’s series of inspirational novels featuring Pearl Spence. Eleven-year-old Pearl narrates her story. An Oklahoma Dust Bowl native, she and her father and best friend, Ray Jones, have settled in Bliss, Michigan in 1935, and Pearl’s mother has run off with another man after Pearl’s sister’s tragic death. Opal, whose mother is African American and whose father is white, keeps house for them, and Pearl pesters her to teach her swing dancing. Opal is the best dancer at the American Legion dances, and the question of segregating the dances arises. When Pearl’s mother returns, pregnant and deserted by her lover, Pearl’s father, endlessly patient, welcomes her home, and Opal is dismissed.

This novel is about so many things: longing for home when home no longer exists; the relationship between parents and children; forgiveness when to forgive seems impossible. Finkbeiner asks a lot of her heroine. Pearl has to forgive her mother for her desertion and her treatment of Opal, be kind to a poverty-stricken classmate who calls Opal by a racial slur, and make a home in the Michigan woods when she misses the wide-open spaces of Oklahoma. Pearl is no goody-two-shoes, though, as she wrestles with her anger towards her mother and the injustice done to Opal. However, I wonder at the narrative choice to back down from the issue of race. Pearl is upset with her mother and her bigoted classmate for their treatment of Opal but turns the other cheek instead of protesting.