Last year, I read Sarah Loudin Thomas's Miracle in a Dry Season and fell in love with the beautiful prose, the characters (especially Casewell Phillips and Perla), and the little town of Wise, West Virginia. In Until the Harvest, readers return to Wise and specifically the Phillips family approximately 20 years after the events of Miracle in a Dry Season. When family tragedy derails Henry Phillips's college studies, he's left unmoored and feeling abandoned. The only things that can tamp down his grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and an unexpected friendship with sweet but unusual preteen Mayfair Hoffman.
Unfortunately, Mayfair's older sister, Margaret, despite her spray of freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has a completely different effect. His grandmother's helper, she's always around, ready to push his buttons, and it seems at first that she doesn't care about his troubles. Henry soon realizes, though, that Margaret's facing her own struggles. Mayfair's health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries. Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as potential tragedy collides with growing hope in a warm story of family bonds and the surprising ways healing finds us all.
I had pretty high expectations going into Until the Harvest based on how much I loved Miracle in a Dry Season. These expectations were completely met by Until the Harvest.
Henry Phillips, Casewell and Perla's college-aged son, was a bit hard to like in the beginning—events at the start of the novel sent him into a tailspin that had him making some really boneheaded decisions—but I couldn't help but root for him, anyway. I was so invested in his journey that I couldn't help but yell at him a few times as he continued making poor choices!
Margaret and Mayfair, though, I loved from the get go. These sisters came from a difficult background, yet they grew and flourished under Henry's grandmother Emily's guidance.
As with Miracle in a Dry Season, there's a bit of the supernatural in Until the Harvest. In this case, Mayfair has a unique way of helping people ... but not without causing pain to herself. Really, Mayfair's gift and the way it unfolded was the novel's highlight for me.
There's a bit of a romance, too, but it doesn't overshadow the characters. From Henry, Margaret, and Mayfair to Grandma Emily to moonshiner Clint, each character is fleshed out and imperfect; basically, the characters feel like people you could encounter in real life.
Until the Harvest was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to reading more about the Phillips family when A Tapestry of Secrets releases next year. 5 stars. Buy the book. Read my review of Miracle in a Dry Season (5 stars).
Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fundraiser for a children's ministry, who has also written for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Then magazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times. Her debut novel was Miracle in a Dry Season. She holds a BA in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in Asheville, North Carolina. She can be found online at www.sarahloudinthomas.com. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers through its book reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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