Title: The Finder of Forgotten Things
Author: Sarah Loudin Thomas
Major Themes: Accidents, Tragedies, Adoption
Synopsis: Three people are drawn together to witness the tragedy of the Hawks Nest Tunnel, and find hope and healing for themselves as they try to support the survivors.
After thoroughly enjoying Thomas’ The Right Kind of Fool early last year, I knew I wanted to read more from her pen. So when The Finder of Forgotten Things popped up, I immediately requested it. It’s not every day that you come across an author you appreciate, is it? I found this book quite gripping—moreso than I anticipated—and it wasn’t long before I decided that Thomas would end up on my long-term book watchlist.
Jeremiah Weber’s hometown Kline is in dire straits. They don’t have enough good water to go around, and when a water dowser showed up out of the blue, they were ready to try him. Instead of giving them water, his work produced two dry wells and he hotfooted it in the night with their money. Now, Jeremiah has to go after Sulley—and try to get their money back.
Meanwhile, Sulley is trying to find the next place to lay his head. Yes, it wasn’t right to take money for a job he didn’t do—but a man has to live somehow. And since this is the only way he’s learned to make a living, he isn’t sorry about it. Hard work is only for those who don’t know how to live by their wits, right?
Gainey’s life has held fairly steady over the years. As the postmistress of a well-off town, her life is full and busy. Then, news starts trickling in about the Hawks Nest Tunnel project, and for the first time in her life, she finds something she could do to help the families around her. Will the men at the tunnel accept her help? And what will happen when Jeremiah and Sulley show up, unintentionally joining her in her quest?
The Finder of Forgotten Things is quite a convoluted story, but the main portion of history—the Hawks Nest Tunnel tragedy—shows up brilliantly in here. I’d never heard of this event before, and seeing it through the eyes of characters who loved the men who suffered made it that much harder. And what made this story even more difficult is that the men who worked there—who were part of the tragedy—had no choice. The Great Depression was going on, and they had to support their families, even at the cost of their own lives.
Beyond history, this book touches on past hurts, identity, and forgiveness—themes I always appreciate seeing in fiction. I laughed with this story, wept with the characters, and identified deeply with their insecurities and triumphs.
The one thing I didn’t like? The water witching part. As noted below, this is a reoccurring theme in the book—and it eventually went beyond water witching to grave witching. I don’t believe that type of thing is of God, and from personal experience, I know that bringing God into situations changes the results of the witching. I understand why it’s in here, and know that not everyone would agree with me—but even though I enjoyed almost every other aspect of the story, this is one I couldn’t agree with.
Aside from the water witching part, this was a great story. The book pulled me in from the beginning, and I’m grateful to have had a chance to read it. I admire Thomas’ desire to bring these men’s stories to light in a way that we would all partake a little in their sufferings—and yet she didn’t let that drag down the story as a whole. She’s a talented author, and if you enjoy history, you’d likely enjoy this.
I was given a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Water dowsing or witching for other things is mentioned in ch. 1, 3 (describing how it works), 15, 37, and 41. “For pity’s sake” is used in ch. 1; “in tarnation” is used in ch. 1, 13, 19, 20, and 33; doggone is used in ch. 1, 2, 8, 13, 17, 19, 21, and 33; devil is used in ch. 1; heck is used in ch. 2, 4, 11, and 19; durn is used in ch. 2, 6, and 17; shoot or a variant is used in ch. 2, 4, 11, 14, 16, 18, 19, 30, 34, and 35; goodness is used in ch. 4, 8, 22, 30, and 36; golly is used in ch. 4, 8, 19, 27, 30, 38, and 39; “the dickens” is used in ch. 17; swore or a variant is used in ch. 20 and 42; dad-blasted is used in ch. 27; cursed is used in ch. 28; “good grief” is used in ch. 33; mercy is used in ch. 34; “for heaven’s sake” is used in ch. 37; and Lordy is used in ch. 40. There is lying in ch. 2, 3, 4, 22, and 27.
There’s a mention of “a woman to keep the bed warm” in ch. 5. A mother had to give up her child for adoption after getting pregnant out of wedlock, and that is mentioned in ch. 13, 20, and possibly elsewhere. A man holds a woman’s hand and there is other touching in ch. 24, 36 (a hug and a kiss), 37 (another kiss), 39 (another hug and several kisses), 40 (presumably more kissing), 41 (more kissing—at a wedding, more description than some). A man offhandedly suggests suicide in ch. 9. In ch. 10, a black man says if he was caught driving a mule and cart, he’d likely be killed for it because of racism. A man is beaten and dies from the beating in ch. 11 and someone else dies in ch. 12. A man remembers being beaten as a boy in ch. 13. A grave is partially opened up in ch. 20, and in ch. 29, a man tells of men killed in a cave-in.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults