Beulah’s House of Prayer

Written by Cynthia A. Graham
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

The Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Depression years is the stark background against which this slim but charming novel is set. Sugar Watson has much in common with Barmy, Oklahoma—both girl and the town have fallen on hard times. After being dropped off in Barmy, Sugar, a trapeze artist who hails from Chicago, is out of money and is forced to wait for her employer to pick her back up the next time the train comes through.

Although she plans to skedaddle out of this nothing town at the earliest opportunity and return to her former life, Sugar’s life becomes entwined with Marigold, a widow nursing a broken heart; Beulah Clinton, a female preacher who provides shelter; and Homer, the troubled son of the town drunk. Each of these colorful characters plays a major role in Sugar’s life, eventually working their way into her heart. When the train does come back through, Sugar must make the biggest decision of her life.

Sugar’s unnamed daughter narrates the book, telling the stories she had heard about her parents’ romance. The setting is almost as important as the characters, as the barren, dusty Oklahoma landscape figures prominently in this sweetly appealing novel. Add in a love story or two, some magical realism, and quirky characters, and you have a winner of a book.