The Lords of St. Thomas

Written by Jackson Ellis
Review by Pam Ferrell

Henry Lord was the loving but stubborn patriarch of the Lord family in the tiny, dying town of St. Thomas, Nevada, situated in the Mojave Desert. The decision in 1928 to build Boulder Dam and create Lake Mead assured the town’s death in the coming years. Despite this, Henry refused to leave his ancestral home. Over the next 10 years, he refused government offers to purchase his land and business at generous prices, believing instead that the water would never reach their tiny hamlet. Until it did in 1938.

Told by Henry’s namesake 11-year-old grandson, who lived with his parents and grandfather, the story is a loving elegy to a way of life that was already dying but, thanks to his grandfather’s refusal to accept inevitable change, the family was torn apart by the looming tragedy and subsequent death. Sixty-four years later, we meet the narrator as an elderly man who learns that the drowned ruins of his hometown had been exposed due to a long drought. He goes on a journey back to St. Thomas in search of lost memories and answers.

Beautifully written, Lords of St. Thomas is the story of tragedies leading to subsequent tragedies. Henry’s return to his destroyed home answers important questions but leaves unresolved other existential questions he asks about his life. It’s a thoughtful portrayal of the human consequences of major environmental changes, but it’s definitely not for readers looking for a happy ending or one with all the pieces neatly tied up.