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What Blooms From Dust By James Markert: Book Summary

Updated on July 1, 2018
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An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.

The Majestic City

A pamphlet clutched tightly in his hands as he boarded the twin with his pregnant wife, Amanda, Wilmington Goodbye begins his journey out west to a new city that has risen in the West in James Markert's newest novel What Blooms From Dust, another of his hauntingly historic set stories with a supernatural and religious juxtaposition critics have noted as "lite horror."

Where terrible things happen to those in the dreamscape painted by Markert's words, characters find themselves having a revelation and come out changed for the better. In What Blooms From Dust we see the transformation of a family, as the Goodbye's first boarded their train to find the terrible fate waiting for them on the other side.

Abruptly the train stops, and the passengers are shuffled out into a roadside field of green vegetation. Confused the men begin to ask questions, Amanda shuffled along the side of her husband. Where are the tall buildings? The shops and fountains shown on the pamphlet? Where was the blooming city that was to rise in West as had been told to them to make them leave the crowed city behind for a new start?

Officials explain to everyone quickly that they were bamboozled to come become crop farmers in Oklahoma along the way to develop that land that was recently taken from the Natives and for their troubles would be rewarded with a plot to start farming.

Amanda began to cry.

With no option to return to the polluted city where they had come from, Wilmington and the other men divided up the land and named their new town Nowhere.

While more "suitcase farmers" came and went, many not fit for the life of a farmer, Nowhere's population began to grow including Amanda's twin boys who at best had a torrid relationship with many of the youngsters in the town, especially a rivalry over a girl named Ellen.

Realizing they had been tricked into cultivating the wilderness, the men of Nowhere, divided up the plots into farms and began to make the best of the their situation. Many farmers came and went, some planting and only coming back to collect what had grown. When the land became overworked however and the lack of rain caused a powerful drought the dust storms made many of the Nowhere residents flee.

Twins And Ellen

A natural rivalry between brothers Jeremiah and Josiah had been evident the moment that Ellen's family had moved into town. The girl's family had wanted to a "build a castle" and become wealthy in Nowhere, refusing to take in that most the farmers that had tried their hand in the town ended up leaving with only their meager belongings after the weather began to change and violent winds tore up crops and loosened soil.

Ellen's father wanted to leave and go back to somewhere more civilized, but her mother became quietly fascinated with another man and silently vowed to never leave- her death bed confession that she told to Dr. Craven as she became another casualty to the Dust Bowl.

While wearing masks outdoors became the new normal for the twins that remembers once playing in rich fields and the roses that bloomed over their mother's grave; a spot that once the Dust Bowl had began despite having a bullet lodged in his head from before, Wilmington carved out daily from the dust.

Learning a coin flip from his father, Jeremiah often decided his daily activities in a game of chance which later had the moniker of The Coin Flip Killer, as he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and somehow summoned the accidental deaths of four people that he had been sent to prison for.

Where Jeremiah admits that he never killed these people directly, he felt responsible, starting with the day he tried to scare a bully of Josiah's with a coin flip only to have the young man later die in a drunken accident.

Jeremiah admitted to cutting open the bodies of each victim before burying them, "to see if the evil in them was visible and to know if that was what was inside him as well." He claims his connection in the deaths was pure coincidence, but as an unreliable narrator given a second chance after he breaks out of prison after a lucky malfunction with the electric chair, do we really believe Jeremiah?

He has done enough to prove his loyalty on his return, taking to caring for his family, or is it because in the absence his brother has married and has a child by Ellen?

Finding out that Jeremiah once had a child with Ellen as well, is this just a set up to end Josiah?

Ellen could never tell anyone about the boy in her dreams. The way his eyes sparkled and the dimples in his cheeks. She never told anyone but Jeremiah after the baby had died in miscarriage and the remains were buried along side her mother in law's grave covered in the rose garden that Wilmington cleaned from the dust daily.

Return To Nowhere

The Nowhere that Jeremiah remembers is still there under a layer of dust that has caused most of the residents to either leave, die or have respiratory failure, which had taken his mother and Ellen's.

What was left of Nowhere was the hospital and the hotel and a few farms of the stubborn that refused to leave or just had nowhere else to go.

Under layers of dust and decay, daily Nowhere was carved back out until the next powerful wind came and buried it all again.

When praying for rains to come never amounted to anything, a neighbor took to sacrificing snakes and hanging them up as offerings to God, doing rain dances that he had heard about from Native people, but still not a drop fell from the sky.

Nowhere was about to be buried alive under the Dust.

After praying and making offerings, the rains did not come and each day Nowhere was forced to uncover itself until the next rush of wind and dust came to claim it once again.

Child For Sale

Jeremiah had heard of families selling off their children to have less mouths to feed in a time of very little but he had never seen it in person before. A man and woman stood near a bench, and Jeremiah watched as another man approached them offering to take a silent child from them. A coin flip decided if he should intervene.

Jeremiah chased off the man, who was later claimed by the dust, and seeing the coin present, the child had assumed that he had been purchased by Jeremiah following him with his belongings.

After growing tired of trying to send the child back to his home, and realizing that he appeared simple with only repeating the words back that were said to him, it was revealed in his bundle that his name was Peter Cotton, and treasured among his few belongings was a typewriter. While Peter could not speak much, he could write and his messages later play a part in the healing of the family.

Oddly, Ellen takes to the boy immediately, even more than that of her own child with Josiah. Peter looks just like the little boy she has seen in her dreams and according to his belongings, came into the world the same day that Jeremiah and Ellen had lost their own son.

Ellen wonders if there is a way that Peter could be their son, a soul reborn that Jeremiah was destined to stumble upon.

Taking in the boy and Jeremiah back into their family home though was opening up old family rifts from when the brothers fought for the attention of Ellen and the terrible day that had almost killed their father.


Dusty Rose

Once morning finding the renewal of life as a single rose came to bloom, Nowhere was unrecognizable as the Dust Bowl had done its worst.

The Goodbye family sees the sign as a second chance to work on their family relations, although it costs them.

What Blooms From Dust takes another page out of history with Markert's own twist, making a story about redemption and humanity in the time of crisis just as his other novels. Elegantly written with beautiful prose, the text of each page is quick to indulge in taking down a novel easily in an afternoon.


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