I Will Send Rain (Rae Meadows)

28514471Annie Bell can’t escape the dust. It’s in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children’s dry, cracked lips. It’s 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie’s fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain. As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become.

This book had a weird effect on me. While I didn’t know what to make of it when I reached the last page, it’s been two days and I’m still thinking about it, so I believe that’s a good sign. Because there are others that you quickly forget (even if you had a great time reading them), but some books do stay with you for a long time.

I wrote about quiet novels a few days ago and,coincidentally, I Will Send Rain is another one of those. It tells the story about a family living in Oklahoma in the 30s, during the Dust Bowl period. I had read about this phenomenon before (don’t ask me when or why, but I randomly knew about this) and I found it super interesting to craft a story based on this particular event.

We have Annie and Samuel Bell, the parents, the oldest daughter who’s named Birdie and young Fred, who doesn’t talk. They live in a somewhat remote farm and together they try to survive the dust bowl years while struggling with farming, marriage, first love and, simply, life.

The book was just under 300 pages but it didn’t feel too short. We had plenty of time to get to know the Bells, their dreams, their hopes, their secrets. And boy, there were secrets. My favorite character was Fred, but I really loved them all, even though they weren’t perfect, not at all. They made mistakes, but they were genuinely good people (well, Fred was pretty perfect, but he was only eight years old). Even the supporting characters were interesting to read: Jack Lily. Cy…

I kept thinking this would make a great film, one of those epic southern movies the Oscars seem to love. It has everything I like about quiet stories: an unforgettable family, a great setting, rural life, a marriage in trouble, a young woman with a secret… But what I loved the most is that every character was brilliantly portrayed and felt realistic.

So yes, this is a pretty special book. Don’t expect it to be super thrilling or even fast-paced, but if you love stories about families and you’re interested in American history (especially, the beginning of the XX century), this is probably a good choice.

Henry Holt and Co, 2016

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Annie

In a past life, I was probably a tortured police detective with a dark and traumatic past. Right now, however, I'm just a twenty-something bookworm who loves listening to old songs and watching 90s movies. I enjoy mystery and crime, southern coming of age stories and historical fiction set in the last century.

23 thoughts on “I Will Send Rain (Rae Meadows)

  1. Here comes another recommendation from you I can’t help but add directly to my wish list! I love the strong effect a quiet novel can have. There are no big twists, crazy car races, but you get involved with the characters and you share a part of life, and it stays with you 🙂

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    1. That’s exactly what this was 🙂 While I was reading it, it wasn’t super exciting or anything but I kept thinking about it for a few days!

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  2. For anyone unfamiliar with the dust bowl, a good start is Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH and the classic movie adaptation starring Henry Fonda. Of course, the focus there is on people who left Oklahoma looking for work in California. There’s also a great Ken Burns documentary from several years ago about the dust bowl, covering everything from how it started (unsustainable farming practices), how people lived through it, and how–after a decade–the area began to recover.

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    1. I’ve seen the film, but haven’t read the book, I’ll add it to my TBR 🙂 Thanks for the info about the dust bowl Deb, it’s definitely an interesting topic!!

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  3. This sounds like an all around win! You have characters you like and can imagine this as a film, plus it is still resonating with you several days later is is just under 300 pages! You have had much better luck than me lately! Maybe I just need to read everything that you review haha.

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    1. I hate it that WordPress doesn’t notify me of all comments! Hahaha Ohhh, I’m sorry you weren’t so lucky with your choices! I’ve noticed that maybe I read 5 excellent books and then I hit a rough patch and there are two or three I don’t love so much… and again and again XD

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      1. WordPress is being terrible lately. It tried to update and caused a ton of havoc with my feed, then reverted back? No idea haha. We win and lose some. I have been reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and so far really liking it so who knows 😉

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  4. I Will Send Rain is on my list of best books of the year. I loved this quiet, beautiful story of a family full of love and flaws. I hadn’t thought of it as a movie, but you’re right, it would make an excellent one.

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  5. I read a book a couple of years ago that was described as something like post-apocalyptic (the author made up his own term, but, come on). It read exactly like this book sounds, so I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just write about the dust bowl. The book is Above All Men by Eric Shonkweiler. If he wanted to do something creepy with a dusty landscape, he could have written historical fiction with a twist, or something.

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  6. The Dust Bowl was pretty horrific. I’ve seen documentaries about it, and it is so scary to imagine what they went through. Can you imagine dust storms like that? All because of the lack of topsoil? And after the Depression, too! It’s a bad time in our history, and it’s good people shed light on the horrors of that era.

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  7. Sounds like a great read. I read so many thrillers over autumn/winter, I’m ready for some stories with a slower pace for summer! I know quite a bit about the Great Depression, but I haven’t read many novels set during that period. Also, the cover is just divine. So striking.

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