2018 Arizona Book of the Year
The black blizzard is a formidable enemy. The furious storm blots out the sun, chokes the life from both man and beast. When RJ Evans finds herself engulfed in inky blackness and holed up beneath her Model AA Ford on an isolated plains road - dirt caked beneath her fingernails, skin flecked with blood drawn by the biting dust - she has no idea this trial won't be her toughest.
What awaits her in the small farming town of Vanham, when she begins her job as a geologist for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, is even more daunting. Drought and over-plowing by men determined to conquer the land have turned the once-lush plains into a brutal twin of the Sahara. Headstrong and intent on healing the earth through conservation farming, RJ must somehow find her place in a tight-knit community that welcomes neither women in authority nor changes to their way of life.
She befriends Woody, an autistic savant born in an era long before any medical diagnosis would explain his peculiar ways and unique talents. The locals label the young man an idiot and RJ an armchair farmer. Yet, in each other, they see so much more.
Beating back the dust is a daily battle in a war for the land. It is a clash that creates unlikely alliances. As RJ learns she must rely on her adversaries if she is to survive the dangers of the Dust Bowl, she also grows to realize that she - like the land itself - is in desperate need of love and healing.
"Only a writer of extreme empathy and skill could make her readers want to return to the storm ravaged, Depression-era Dust Bowl again and again. Readers will adore McCann's authentic and unique characters, and will be deeply moved by the story of PECULIAR SAVAGE BEAUTY." Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway's Girl
"Once started, Peculiar Savage Beauty is impossible to put down. McCann's remarkable story-telling skills are on full display as we root for her unforgettable characters who fight the forces of nature while battling societal expectations." Ann Weisgarber, The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree
"This tenderhearted, eloquently-written tale set against the historical backdrop of a small town ravaged by the Dust Bowl is a story of what it really means to love." Rachel Simon, New York Times best-selling author of The Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding the Bus with My Sister