Excerpt from Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Midnight at the Electric

by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
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  • Published:
    Jun 2017, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Szczechowski

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Print Excerpt

MAY 20, 1934

The dust came again this morning. It kicked up out of nowhere, looking like a gray cloud rolling across the ground instead of the sky. I was just walking out of the barn with a bucket when I saw it blowing across the northeast edge of the farm, but by then it was too late to get to the house. I had to hold on to the fence not to fall over my own feet, and then all those grains of dirt ran their hands against me and polished me like sandpaper, crawled into my eyes and throat. And then it passed, and the sky was that relentless blue again.

Now everything has a thin layer of grit. All Mama's books in the library are powdered. My toast this morning was dusty and so were my eggs. But we are lucky this week. Sometimes the dust blows for days.

I dream about rain and wet leaves, even when I'm awake. I could lie down on a patch of green grass and never get up.

I found this postcard in the bottom of one of Mama's drawers, while I was looking for pennies she might have left there before they became so scarce.

I've read it over six times, and I still don't understand it. There's never been a Lenore in our lives, and Mama's never mentioned her.

I can see her now, out at the side of the house, sweating over the kitchen garden—which feeds us—and Ellis, our helper over by the barn listening to baseball on his wireless, feeding our one skinny cow. Galapagos is wallowing in the mud in what used to be a pond and trying to catch a fly. Beezie is in the hall coughing on the dog.

I want to ask Mama about Lenore, but she is the best imitator of a stone you ever met. You can have a whole conversation with her just by yourself. I've spent my whole life trying to read her signals. She has a way of pulling you into her silence.

This morning she said she smells rain on the dry wind. We all looked at each other and agreed that rain is on its way. But our eyes said something different.

We're a house full of secrets. The main secret is that we are afraid.

Twenty-four sunny days in a row. Where have the clouds gone?

MAY 25, 1934

This morning in church we prayed for rain and President Roosevelt. I spend most of my time in church trying to keep Beezie from picking her nose or whispering loud and embarrassing observations like how if Jesus knew for sure he was going straight to heaven things weren't that bad for him anyway. Beezie's so tiny she may just as well be half elf, but she's a hellcat and everyone knows it. Meanwhile they barely notice me at all. Even Mama calls me her brown bird: I'm not pretty, and I blend in. But Ellis says if I'm a brown bird, I'm a vulture, for the way I circle the house in the evenings. I'm so restless I could fly out of my skin.

Ellis is the one who told me to start writing things down. At church, he sits at the end of our family bench, and when I glance his way, his head is invariably bowed. When I'm bored during the service I let myself picture him asleep in the bunkhouse—in my mind, I kiss him awake.

After service we made our way through the chattering, cheerful Sunday crowd gathered outside the church door, catching up with each other on the week's happenings. On Main Street the heat and the sun beat down on us all like a fist. As usual, everyone went out of their way to talk to Ellis. He's not a vulture but a peacock, dark-haired, always with a twinkle in his eyes like he just heard a joke, and a smile like he never met a stranger. People are drawn to him. He's the town pet.

We stopped in at Jack's store. While Mama bartered some old farm tools for flour, Ellis and I picked out other things we needed and loaded them onto the counter. I handled an apple and then put it down because the store is mostly a museum of things we can't have.

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Excerpted from Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Copyright © 2017 by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Children's Books.

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