A few months ago, I received a copy of Lords of St. Thomas from the author, Jackson Ellis. This novel is the story of a family who is one of the remaining inhabitants of St. Thomas, Nevada, a town that is set to be demolished and go “underwater” with the expansion of Lake Mead. Henry, the main character, is a young boy, and we see his family and his daily life through a child’s eyes, whether he is playing under the house in his secret spot, going to school, or just riding the ups and downs of life.
Here’s the overview:
Winner of the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher First Novel PrizeShortlisted for the 2016 Plaza Literary Prize
In the Mojave Desert, at the southern end of the isolated Moapa Valley, sat the town of St. Thomas, Nevada. A small community that thrived despite scorching temperatures and scarce water, St. Thomas was home to hardy railroad workers, farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, and a lone auto mechanic named Henry Lord.
Born and raised in St. Thomas, Lord lived in a small home beside his garage with his son, Thomas, his daughter-in-law, Ellen, and his grandson, “Little” Henry. All lived happily until the stroke of a pen by President Coolidge authorizing the construction of the Boulder (Hoover) Dam. Within a decade, more than 250 square miles of desert floor would become flooded by the waters of the Colorado River, and St. Thomas would be no more.
In the early 1930s, the federal government began buying out the residents of St. Thomas, yet the hardheaded Henry Lord, believing the water would never reach his home, refused to sell. It was a mistake that would cost him―and his family―dearly.
Lords of St. Thomas details the tragedies and conflicts endured by a family fighting an unwinnable battle, and their hectic and terrifying escape from the flood waters that finally surge across the threshold of their front door. Surprisingly, it also shows that, sometimes, you can go home again, as Little Henry returns to St. Thomas 60 years later, after Lake Mead recedes, to retrieve a treasure he left behind―and to fulfill a promise he made as a child.
I will admit that I have a strange fascination for stories about towns underwater. I grew up near one and there’s one not far from where I live now. The whole idea of a town lying beneath the stillness of a lake is both terrifying and oddly compelling. So my odd predilection for books about flooded towns drew me to this novel, but the strong writing and storyline kept me reading. I really enjoyed it and still think about little Henry. I would recommend it highly.
Thank you for my review copy!