Atlas, Oklahoma, 1930s. During the Great Depression, with no other jobs in sight, Liam begins working for the Federal Writers’ Project. He will receive a very humble paycheck in return for collecting stories of rural life in small-town Oklahoma. He begins interviewing the townspeople while hoping for better times and more lucrative jobs in bigger cities. When he meets Eden Sawyer, the daughter of a poor farmer as well as a talented artist, he finds a friendship he wasn’t expecting. And as his interviews of the town residents continue, he begins to learn more about the inner thoughts, ambitions, and dignity of the people that he’s met in Atlas.
The writing is absolutely stellar, as the reader immediately feels thrown into this Dust Bowl town, just like Liam. The backstories of the people he meets are fascinating glimpses of 1930s America. There is Rabbit, the garbage man, who describes his job thus: “No matter who you are, how high up on the stack you figure to be, you’re still leaving behind your own trash every day you live. Without me, you’d soon enough be swimming in it.” And Dub, the proud farmer who represents the attitude towards public assistance at that time: “Thing is, we don’t ask nothing of nobody, that includes Roosevelt. What we got, we earned, and without no handouts.”
As more interviews reveal the proud, the talented, and the unseen among the townspeople, the readers see their true value, and the ugly side of the town is also revealed: those who want to keep others from succeeding. This story paints a vivid picture, both visually and emotionally, not just of a small town during the Depression, but also of the dynamics between the rich and the poor at that time. Highly recommended.