Cover Image: October in the Earth

October in the Earth

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Member Reviews

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this eARC.

A beautifully written story about Del, a woman who was married for eight years, and as the depression begins, she realizes her husband is not a good man (he is a well known preacher manipulating young women to sleep with him as he milks money from the poor).

She begins the life of a hobo, and meets a dear friend. It is a captivating, beautiful, and heartbreaking story, full of adventure and excitement.

An enthusiastic, 5 star rating from this reader, I hope to read more by this author in the future.

Note: I had just read the part of the Nebraska dust storms in the 30's, the time period my mother grew up, and the realism of the scenes and historical details were spot on. Truly a wonderful read.

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This historical fiction is my first read by this author. Set in Kentucky during the Great Depression, Del is married to the most celebrated preacher, she tries hard to mind her place until his infidelity comes to light, it’s the breaking point for their marriage, she leaves her comfortable home and rigid life setting off on the rails where she befriends single mother Louisa who shows her the ropes.

Their story isn’t the easiest of reads, it’s an everyday struggle to survive, there is heartache and pain, at times I was filled with a feeling of despair over the situation so many people were living in which the reader meets during the journey, it had me crying ugly tears more than once.

Their friendship is heartwarming, and clings on to the last vestige of hope. I really don’t think I would have had the fortitude to survive such long standing harshness.

It’s certainly one for people who loved The Four Winds and This Tender Land, the writing and storytelling is every bit as good. This one is a last minute addition to my books of the year. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but appreciate that it’s not for everyone as there is a lot of bleakness.

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October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker

Thank you to NetGalley for the ebook to read.

3.5 stars
In Depression-era Kentucky, Del Wensley, the wife of the low-down dirty lying preacher, finally decides she has had enough of his ways and being a shadow woman, and leaves. Not knowing where to go she hops on a train with an open cargo door and meets up with a hobo, named Louisa and from there the journey begins for Del and continues for Louisa.

I liked how descriptive the author is with her imagery of the poverty, the deplorable conditions that people who ride-the-rails endure and the overall lifestyle during this Depression-era time across the country. Her style of writing makes it easy to picture in your mind what it’s like.

A story of friendship, poverty, heartbreak, endurance and love. My first read by this author and look forward to reading more of her books.

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After reading this book, I have mixed feelings.. The beginning seemed slow and there was just not that much going on in the story. The main characters were a preacher and his wife, they seemed to be living pretty typical lives, except the preacher was too good to be true. Del, his wife was just doing what you would expect a preacher's wife to be doing. The history about Kentucky and coal miners at the time was interesting. The pastor and his wife were the only people in the county that were doing well, because of the money being taken from the poor coal miners.

Then Del left her home, family, husband and Kentucky all behind. The rest of the book was all about what it was like being a female hobo during the 1930's across America.. On her first unpaid train ride she met the woman that would teach her how to survive as a hobo - Louisa. One of the themes of the book during this time was the poor were getting poorer and the rich were getting richer, similar to times now. Also, that the people with money were willing to take advantage of the poor.

There was so much going on in the US during this time period in history - hunger, banks calling in loans, the bank throwing people off of their land, farm and out of their homes, dust storms, migrant work, hobo creeds to live by and so much more. All of these topics were in this book, so I learned much more detail than ever before about life after the depression.

I would rate the part of the book before Del left as a 2-3. Then I would rate the rest of the story as a 4. I would rate the historical fiction in the book as a 5. So overall I would rate this story as 4. As I was getting close to the ending I could not figure out how the book was going to end - I was hoping for anything but a horrible ending for these two women. The ending was not what i would consider happy but it was not really sad.

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In Depression-era Kentucky Adella "Del" Wensley, wife of the most celebrated preacher in Harlan County, turns her back on the rigid life she’s known and takes to the rails. One of her first encounters is with Louisa Trout who teaches Del the ways of the boxcars and the women develop a close friendship.

A well-written novel with engaging characters and evocative descriptions of how tough times were in the 1930s, including a huge duststorm at one point. The number of homeless people and those existing on the bare minimum as described in this book seem to echo conditions in the present day. I don't imagine many people ride the rails any more and I would guess there are more social services available these days but it still feels like we haven't made a lot of progress. A realistic story about a strong female friendship. The ending was sad but satisfying. I'd give this book 4.5 stars rounded up.

My thanks to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.
Publication: October 10, 2023

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I stayed up all night to read this book, finished it in two days because I couldn’t tear myself away from it. This is an enduring story about love, sacrifice, friendship, longing, and emotional strength. At the end of this novel I felt like a lifetime had passed.

October in the Earth is about two women, one, Adella, who flees from her stifling life as a preacher’s wife, and another Louisa, who is trying to find a way back home. In the mire of the Depression Era, the 1930s, these two women ride the rails as hobos, each one trying to find a way to silence the trauma of their lives. Through their travels and travails, they find paths that lead to their true selves.

Hawker writes these women as women want to be written and seen, felt, known. Adella and Louisa are fleshy, palpable characters. Hawker creates a wide emotional landscape for the reader.

This novel reminds me of another American classic of the same historical period, Ironweed by William Kennedy, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; there is a deep sense of melancholy that permeates the book, a kind of grey film that is simply life in its most vulnerable form. In October in the Earth the grey veil is burlap, coarse and harsh, an irritant.

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A moving novel of trust and courage, told from the perspective of a deeply original character in historical fiction. Del, a preacher's wife in Kentucky, has followed the rules her entire life, until one day she feels the near-violent stirring of self-respect. Del's choice, to flee her painful marriage and take to the trains and the life of a "hobo," leads to an epic journey, rendered with both emotional power and richly written atmosphere.

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I like this new take on depression era story set along the railroad and camps it was a different take on this time period and I really enjoyed it
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me read and review this book

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This is a heavy book but one I enjoyed nonetheless. I love historical fiction about women who come into their own, and this depression-era story set on the rails is a great example. I won't soon forget Del and Louisa.


Thanks to Lake Union Publishing for the copy to review.

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Quick and Dirty:⁣
-Depression era historical fiction ⁣
-fiercely feminist⁣
-vagabond living⁣
-highly descriptive and visual⁣

Thoughts⁣
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this novel, but I’ll be the first to say it surprised me in the best way. Not only is the main character compelling, but the overall story is fresh and unique. A female “hobo”: yes, thank you! I loved the time the characters spent on the road; the highly descriptive text made it easy to conjure up a visual interpretation of their journey which brought the book to life for me. I felt like I was along for the ride for much of the book. The trials and tribulations they faced on the road mirrored many of the same issues women face to this day, particularly impoverished women with few choices. The pride I felt watching the MC not only leave her husband but also grow into her own on the road was a reflection of the power of female strength. The hint of a possible romance between the two characters did not feel like a distraction, ultimately adding to the character growth IMO. I also really loved the ending of this book. It’s not what I wanted or expected, but somehow that was ok. Overall, this book is a terrific example of feminist fiction and an incredible glimpse into the everyday struggles faced during The Great Depression.

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October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker

Mixed feelings after reading this book. It is a powerful tale of two women riding the rails and living the hobo life but…I had trouble relating to the women, their stories, and believing it could have happened as written. It was as bleak as the depression years no doubt were and told of hardships faced as well as referencing the wealthy who had money and their willingness to take advantage of others.

Del Wensley’s epiphany didn’t strike me as having a strong enough impetus to uproot and leave all she knew, jump on a train, and live a hobo life. I can’t see the pivotal moment being strong enough or occurring at a significant enough moment in her to inspire her to do what she did. She had no relevant skills to live the life she did in this story. Sure, meeting Louisa was helpful as Louisa shared her insights but two women on the rails alone… Anyway, it was interesting to watch Del grow, see the friendship between the two women’s bond strengthen, and hope that they would find a way to settle down at some point – perhaps together or near one another.

This book introduced many issues: the depression, banks calling in loans, dust storms, death, chicken hawks preying on others, railroad bulls dispensing their own form of justice, the hobo creed, jungles where hobos would gather to live in almost commune-like settlements, men who did women wrong, infidelity, friendship, migrant work, kidnapping, and…more. The ending left me flat. I had high hopes for more…and didn’t get it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC – this is my honest review.

Rating:
4 on NetGalley – it should be published
2 for enjoyment by me
3 Average

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October in the Earth was an empowering read! Del Wensley is married to a magnetic, celebrated preacher and tries to “mind her place” in a world where a husband is the final decision maker in the home. After being faced with her husband’s infidelity and inability to take accountability for his actions (actually blaming the “jezebels” in the community for his transgressions), Del makes the impossible choice to set out on her own and make her own way. Set in depression-era Kentucky, this was not a woman’s world so to speak, so Del sacrifices everything to gain her own self-respect.

I loved this book for a couple of reasons:

1) It was different and refreshing to read of a woman that stood up for herself and held a boundary, especially given the time and setting. It was such an important lesson in making sure you can fill your own cup before filling the cup of others.

2) The way that female friendships were spotlighted was so heartwarming. Women are the ultimate nurturers, but often do not expect to find care in others. It was really great to read of two women leaning on each other to find better things for themselves.

In general, depression era fiction is both heartbreaking and inspiring, and this book hit both of these marks. Definitely worth a read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for access to this title in return for an honest review.

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October In the Earth is another wonderful read by Olivia Hawker!Her main character Del is a Kentucky preachers wife but her husband is a ladies man.She has been taught to be submissive but finally has enough of his cheating ways and hops a train to become a hobo as many are doing during the depression.Her adventures riding the rails and the friendships she makes are an interesting story that made me want to read more!Thank you Net Galley and Olivia Hawker for allowing me to enjoy an ARC of this book!

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I don't think there will ever be a book by this author I don't love, and a lot of it is in the way she is ale to capture nature--in every season, every tilting of the sun, every shadow; not to mention the wildlife. Her stories are never fast paced, preferring instead to bring the reader into moments in time and let us feel all the peace or fear or joy in them. At some points you wonder where the story is going to end because you can't see it clearly, but you trust her to take you there.
The story is rich is the reasons why we love and leave all we know, the deep friendships we form, the childhood bubbles we were raised in, and the vastness of America. Instead of dwelling on the constant misery of the Depression, Hawker shows us hope, courage, and sacrifice, highlighting how everyone has value and deserves to be treated as such.
While many other stories that start out with someone running away wrap up everything neatly at the end, this is one of the few that gave a perfect ending while leaving a lot of what-ifs. And while I doubt Hawker will write a sequel, it would be wonderful to see her heroine become part of the history of the late forties and fifties.

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October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker was a nice surprise for me. Going in I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did but it was a really good read. It’s the story of Del Wensley. In the beginning she’s married to the local preacher in Harlan County, Kentucky. Upon learning of his infidelity, she soon realizes his other faults and decides she no longer wants to aide him in his terrible ways. She hops in a boxcar of a slow moving train and that’s when her adventure begins. She becomes a hobo of sorts and meets another young woman after first hopping the train. They become fast friends and the story tells of their adventures and the many hardships they encounter while crossing the country looking for work. This was not only an enjoyable read for me but I really learned so much about what it was like for the people back then during The Depression. Del certainly didn’t live a good life but she found friendship and love amidst it all. There was also heartache in the end that left me with tears in my eyes but her sacrifice for her friends happiness was beautiful. I really enjoyed reading this book, I think it’s one of Hawkers best and I’d recommend it to other readers. I’d like to thank NetGalley for the arc to read and review. I’m giving this a 5 star rating and look forward to reading more by Olivia Hawker in the future.

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Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pub. Date: October 10, 2023

Although it has an intriguing premise, "October in the Earth" fell flat. The novel takes place in Kentucky during the Great Depression. Del is our heroine. She is a preacher's wife and strictly adheres to his instructions. The book's title comes from the author's phrase, “It was June in the sky, but October in the earth.” I'm assuming this is a metaphor for when things look clear and warm but are actually overcast and cold. Meaning our protagonist has been looking through rose-colored glasses and not seeing reality. But I am just guessing. This novel explores poverty, female friendship, new beginnings, and finding independence.

Del begins questioning her lifestyle after discovering that the preacher has been having an affair. She wants to leave him. Knowing her husband would never allow that, she jumps a coal train to escape him and her rigidly religious town. Jumping trains was a typical sight at that time in America. I enjoy learning in historical fiction. This one taught me that during the Depression, most riders were not hoboes but victims of significant loss. Families with children, couples, men, and women traveled in boxcars from town to town for employment. Del makes friends with another female rider who shows her the tricks to survive homelessness. Her friend becomes a big part of the story. It wasn't necessary to make the story about the strength of female friendship to improve it. The narrative shifted from historical fiction to women's fiction.

The author explores Del’s life as she, too, “rides-the-rails”—as it was called—looking for work. The problem I have with this novel is that it does not read credibly. As a woman of a religion that teaches a wife must submit to her husband, Del's life-changing experiences of jumping from one boxcar to another seem to come too easy for her. It reads as an abrupt and drastic transformation. Plus, I would have preferred an even balance between the genres. Still, I enjoyed the novel's depiction of that era. I am guessing other readers will enjoy this novel more than I did.

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Hawker has fast become a favorite author of mine. I have read every book she has written, to date. This one was absolutely brilliant. I loved the characters, the storyline. She does her research.

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DNF

The writing is okay, but the way the characters talk & the FMC’s meek, submissive, holy wife outlook are off putting for me. I cannot get interested in the storyline enough to continue reading.

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4.25⭐️

Del begins this story as the meek wife of Kentucky preacher, but as she watches his manipulations and hypocrisy, she begins to question him, the church, and everything she’s been raised to believe is right. Further hard truths are revealed and it’s exactly what she needs to finally break free of it all and set out on her own, to find her place and herself.

And what an adventure she takes us on! I loved the unique story that unfolds, and the force that Del becomes. This story definitely kept me engaged to the last page.

Thank you Olivia Hawker, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for providing this ARC for review consideration. All opinions expressed are my own.

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<b>Hawker's newest historical fiction gives a wonderfully evocative peek into a gritty period, as her main protagonist escapes a bad marriage to ride the rails during the Depression and reinvents herself completely.</b>

I <i>love</i> Olivia Hawker's books (see links to my other reviews below), and her newest historical fiction is set in Depression-era Kentucky.

Adella (Del) Wensley is the wife of the showy, prosperous, revered local preacher. She's learned to bite her tongue, and she feels like the poor treatment her husband shows her may be deserved, as after eight years of marriage, they haven't conceived a child. Her life's purpose is meant to be made up of motherhood, catering to her husband's needs, and keeping house, after all.

But when her husband pushes her too far with abhorrent behavior, Del hops a train and dives into the transient community riding the rails in search of work and survival.

Hawker offers a wonderfully vivid, gritty, sobering, often surprisingly hopeful--but never too easy--peek at Depression-era desperation, forged loyalties, shedding of expectations, and new, hard-fought identities and priorities.

The two women at the heart of the story are tough as nails but vulnerable with each other. Their deep friendship is poignant in its beginning and its end. Whew, a heartbreaker!

Olivia Hawker is also the author of <a href="https://www.bossybookworm.com/post/review-of-the-fire-and-the-ore-by-olivia-hawker/"><i>The Fire and the Ore,</a></i> <a href="https://www.bossybookworm.com/post/review-of-the-ragged-edge-of-night-by-olivia-hawker/"><i>The Ragged Edge of Night,</a></i> and <i>One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow,</i> which I mentioned in the Greedy Reading List <a href="https://www.bossybookworm.com/post/six-great-historical-fiction-stories-set-in-the-american-west/">Six Great Historical Fiction Stories Set in the American West.</a>

I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing.

<b>To see my full review on The Bossy Bookworm, or to find out about Bossy reviews and Greedy Reading Lists as soon as they're posted, please see <a href="https://www.bossybookworm.com/post/review-of-october-in-the-earth-by-olivia-hawker/"><i>October in the Earth.</a></i></b>

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