When you read a really good, compelling book, don’t you sometimes come away wanting more? Do you wish you could learn what happened after the final chapter, the last sentence?

I felt that way when I finished Susie Finkbeiner‘s first book, A Cup of Dust, and again as I read A Trail of Crumbs. I’m grateful to Susie for giving us “the rest of the story” in her third book in the Pearl Spence series, A Song of Home.

In this series, we follow 10-year-old Pearl and her family through the trials of life in the Oklahoma dust bowl of the 1930s and uprooting as they move to Michigan in hopes of a better life. Along the way, tragedies threaten to destroy Pearl’s family and test her confidence that she can weather any storm.

A Song of Home builds on the characters introduced in the first two books, but it also stands alone as Susie deftly weaves back story into a novel set in an era of song and prejudice. Both the draw of forbidden music and prevailing attitudes toward black citizens set up a tension in this story that keeps the reader engaged. And, a thread of family discord pulls the audience in as we root for Pearl and her parents, Mary and Tom.

The characters in the series are clearly drawn and genuine and the challenges central to this period in our history are defined by how these people live. Historical fiction is my favorite genre. As I think of other works of fiction set in this era, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple and The Grapes of Wrath come to mind. The Pearl Spence stories hold their own in the company of these classic giants.

Susie and her family live in West Michigan and her love for the region shines through in A Song of Home. She recently shared that the protagonist is loosely based on her own grandmother, Pearlie Lou.

“Pearl’s story isn’t exactly Grandma Pearl’s story. But there are mirror images of my grandma’s life in the novels,” says Susie. She also admits that the “voice” of Pearl was drawn from what she knows of herself as a child. Susie remembers being a strong-willed, curious and adventurous little girl. She also remembers a sensitivity that is clearly central to Pearl’s observations of the world around her. In Pearl’s words:

“There was a handful of things I knew to be true. One was that Jesus lived in my heart and another was that Daddy loved me deeper than an ocean. I knew the sun would come up every morning, even if I couldn’t see for the thick Michigan clouds. And, I knew without a shadow of turning that just because a man was bad didn’t mean his kids would be too. The man whose blood ran through my veins was wicked as the devil himself. I refused to believe I could be even a little like him.”

You need to know that the blood running through Pearl’s veins isn’t that of her father, Tom, but of the her birth father. Read A Cup of Dust to discover Pearl’s painful discovery of her roots and to meet her delightful grandmother, Meemaw.

All three Pearl Spence titles are available now on Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, Baker Book House and at Barnes and Noble. Any or all of them would make the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite reader.

As an early Christmas gift to you, I’m offering a free copy here. Simply leave a comment briefly describing your personal “song of home”. Tell us what says “home” to you. I’ll draw a winner on Monday, December 4 and contact you by e-mail.