On Shifting Sand by Allison Pittman is Christian historical fiction of great depth. The story is told in the first person by Nola Merrill, a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years. We see the devastation of life in a small town as that life literally dries up around Nola. I had not read anything of this detail about the Dust Bowl years and the harsh realities of it were quite eye-opening for me. Not only is Nola’s physical life drying up but she is also dealing with temptation to the life of her marriage. Nola is a Christian and through all the doubts, insecurities and trials, she holds on to the security of her salvation even as she is nearly overcome by her human frailties. I read the book in two days, not wanting to put it down until there was resolution. I highly recommend the book. I received a copy of the book from the author and publisher by way of The Book Club Network (bookfun.org) in exchange for an honest review.
“I can testify only to being a woman who’s stepped into a storm, just like Rosalie, looking for something elusive and lost. What does it matter that I might die? Better I should than to wander, choked but not killed by my sin,” Nola acknowledges in Allison Pittman’s novel, "On Shifting Sand." This four hundred and sixteen page paperback targets those who enjoy historical romance involving the Dust Bowl years. With no graphic sexual scenes or violence, the topic of anorexia, adultery, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. This reader wishes all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence. The ending includes author’s notes, discussion questions, the first chapter of a previous book, and the author’s biography. After being a teacher for seventeen years, author Pittman has written over a dozen Christian novels, mainly focusing on historical fiction. Winner of several awards, she and her family live in Texas. In this sad but poignant story written in first person, Nola Merrill has always felt unforgiven as she tries to survive in the 1930s in dusty and barren Oklahoma. Having a callous father, she prematurely marries Russ, a young preacher who seeks God’s will in his life and marriage. When Russ’s buddy stays with the family against Nola’s wishes, not only does she keep secrets from her spouse, but she begins an adulterous relationship that she fears cannot be stopped. As God shifts the wind-blown land around her, she becomes battered and broken, finding only discarded dirt in her mind, body, and soul. As she hides her sin deeper within, physically, mentally, and spiritually she feels a loss of purpose. Knowing she must confess her wayward heart and actions, she continues to make promises that are broken to both Russ and God. Contemplating she is the cause of what happens around her, she must find inner peace and forgiveness. Told from lonely and self-abasing viewpoint, Nola’s acceptance of her wrongdoings has an effect on others as guilt, blame, and self-doubt surface within her family. Praying her husband will continue to love her, she must truly thirst for the Lord to feel refreshed and whole again. Written with a heartbrokenness that turns to hope, the story grasps the reader’s inner core when it comes to a defiled marriage that needs redemption. Although not a normal Christian topic often discussed, the humanness of man’s deprivation shows the desperate need for God. Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for furnishing this complimentary book in exchange for a review based on the reader’s opinions.
When Nola Merrill married a preacher, she knew his loyalty would be divided between her and his devoted parishioners, but she never imagined that her commitment as a faithful wife would be challenged by a mysterious stranger. Living in Featherling, Oklahoma, during the Dust Bowl, Nola is suffocating both in the cloud of dirt and under the weight of her scandalous secret. Is her father right, that this drought-driven nightmare is God’s punishment for her inability to find happiness with her station in life? As the gritty winds erode her nerves, she must choose whether to suffer in silence or escape in shame. Pittman expertly presents this compelling first-person story of sin, secrets, and a struggle to find forgiveness in herself and in God in Nola’s lilting Oklahoma drawl and turns the pervasive dust into a powerful metaphor. Although there are only brief, tasteful scenes of passion, Pittman manages to generate a palpable, simmering heat throughout the novel, satisfying readers’ thirst for drama, deceit, and deliverance.
As far as inspirational love stories go, Pittman has crafted an unconventional one. . . Nola is vividly fleshed out, and, through her viewpoint, Pittman effectively contrasts the repercussions of forgiveness when it is withheld and granted.
Pittman makes a departure from her usual genre with an elegantly written novel. The main characters are nearly all unsympathetic, which could pull the reader from the story, yet the tale is so well told it will stay with you. 4 stars
Demonstrating her versatility as a novelist, Pittman has written a moving tale of temptation, surrender, guilt, and redemption that is quite different from her “Sister Wives” series. Nola is an unreliable narrator, but she’s also a compelling storyteller. The unusual setting of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s adds historical interest and parallels the destruction of Nora’s life. This intricately plotted novel of one woman’s journey of faith will certainly have wide appeal.