BOOK

The next morning at dawn, the fragrance of wet sage and earth wafted through my open window above the side of my bed. A cool, humid breeze hit my face in successive gusts, leaving my curtains alternately swelling and sucking against the window screen. I sat up and pulled the white eyelet material back, taking a deep whiff and wrapping each cotton panel around the drapery hooks on either side of my window. On the horizon, I saw a flash of light from the north and treetops fighting to stand straight against a consuming wind current. I snuggled back down in my bed to the sound of distant rumbles and the spatter of raindrops on the sidewalk outside my window. They started slow, then grew faster and harder with each huff of air on my face. I found the scents and sounds intoxicating, and I fell asleep again before Mama’s voice, followed by a loud and much closer crash of thunder, woke me a second time.

I glanced at the clock on my nightstand. Two hours had passed. It was just after 10:00, and the sun was nowhere in sight. From my window, a deep purple sky reflected onto my bedroom walls, casting a dark shadow over my room. The smell of pancakes cooking on the stove caused my stomach to growl. Mama had the radio tuned to the weather station, and Katie was crying. I heard the phone ring twice and Mama’s voice again, tight and agitated. I turned to see the foot of my bed damp from rain and hurried to close my window before rushing into the kitchen.

“No, really, we’ll be fine.” Mama’s voice strained into the telephone, her eyes were puffy. “Mrs. Digby has a cellar, and we can run over there in a matter of seconds if we need to.” She motioned for me to give Katie the cup of milk she poured and left on the counter. “No, Bill’s at work. But don’t worry, really. I can see Mrs. Digby’s cellar from where I stand; that’s how close it is.”

“Ilk!” Katie demanded. I put her in the highchair, and she lifted her bottom-weighted training cup to her slobbery mouth.

“Okay, then. Thanks for calling.” Mama replaced the receiver and flipped the pancakes in the heavy cast-iron skillet. She walked over and turned the volume up on the radio, listening to the strained voice of a nervous reporter.

“What’s wrong, Mama?” I asked. “Who was that on the phone?”

Mama switched the radio off, staring past me out the kitchen window. She sucked in her breath as her eyes widened.

“You’d better wake up your brother,” she said.

It’s 1969 in West Texas when sixteen year-old Riley Pritchard’s family is altered forever after a tornado destroys their home, triggering a series of dramatic events. When the ultimate tragedy punctuates their decimated lives, each family member, from her beautiful, self-centered mother and hardworking, sentimental father to her kick-ass, air-headed older brother, grieves alone, isolated in a suffocating sadness.

In a desperate attempt to extricate herself from the pain and sorrow of a home where the walls seem to be closing in tighter every day, Riley volunteers at the local Veterans Administration hospital. There she meets Johnny, a young soldier and survivor of a helicopter crash in Vietnam who has returned home with severe burns covering the lower half of his body. Together they begin to discover the redemptive and healing power of love.

A moving coming of age story about finding inner peace and fulfillment in the face of heartbreak and loss, Rebhan delivers a nuanced, captivating portrayal of blossoming adulthood. Showing remarkable felicity for time and place, she imbues her novel with the numbing desolation of west Texas as she explores the themes of self-reliance, self-preservation, and strength amidst adversity. As engaging as it is entertaining, Finding Tranquility Base is a thought-provoking, inspiring story that will change the way you view the world all over again.