Plot: McCann's plotting is as determined and adventurous as the bright personality of RJ, the protagonist. Readers are taken on a whirlwind journey as RJ navigates the dust-covered plains and tries to make a name for herself. It's a tightly plotted and well-executed story.
Prose/Style: McCann's prose is serviceable throughout, but it is RJ's unique voice that really stands out. She's a bold and confident protagonist with a strong and clearly developed voice to match..
Originality: The refreshing characterization found in RJ elevates the story from standard historical fiction fare. The story feels unique and new, which makes for an exciting read.
Character/Execution: RJ shines as a protagonist. Her refusal to settle for less than what she wants as she sets out for Kansas alone makes her easy to root for. She's intelligent and compelling, voracious in her pursuits as a scientist, and truly serves as the heart of the story.
Date Submitted: July 15, 2020
In 1934, at the height of the Dust Bowl, the Interior Department hires geologist RJ Evans to open a soil lab in her drought-stricken Kansas home town. She knows locals won’t welcome a stubborn woman with a “fancy degree,” but the level of hostility is unexpected. How can she convince the disheartened to believe in a future? RJ translates six years of study into practical skills for her skeptical audience. She proves her mettle in every sandstorm. She loves her work. She falls in love with a farmer who calls her Rosa Jean, but he wants her to leave Kansas and her job. RJ’s life changes while she reexamines her personal goals, prompting her to make some surprising decisions. Readers may question RJ’s choices and wonder about her past, but her dilemma is touchingly familiar. By placing a recognizable protagonist in an almost unimaginable setting—a land under attack and a people uprooted—McCann (All Different Kinds of Free, 2011) has crafted an unforgettable novel. — Jeanne Greene
Jessica McCann's second historical novel, Peculiar Savage Beauty, was named "2018 Arizona Book of the Year" in the Arizona Authors Association annual literary contest. The novel also placed first in the published fiction category.
Peculiar Savage Beauty, a historical novel by Jessica McCann, was named to the fiction shortlist for the Rubery Book Award, an international book prize for indie publishers and authors. Submissions for the next book award will open in August 2020.