I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Length: 272 pages
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Single Sentence Summary: A wheat farming family in 1934 Oklahoma fight the dust storms that have arrived with a vengeance while dealing with their individual longings for escape.
Primary Characters: Annie Bell – the daughter of a minister. Annie has been on the farm for 19 years and has recently been feeling longings and regrets. Samuel Bell – Annie’s very religious husband. Sam is a hardworking man who loves his family deeply. Birdie Bell – Annie and Sam’s 15-year old daughter. Birdie is experiencing her first real love and dreams of escaping to a city life. Fred Bell – the 8-year old son of Annie and Sam. Fred doesn’t speak, but communicates through writing. He loves the farm and especially the chickens that he cares for.
Review/Synopsis: As I Will Send Rain opens there has been no rain in Mulehead, Oklahoma for seventy-two days and counting. The Bell family is watching their wheat crop suffer, far behind where it should be for the season. Sam spends his days in the fields checking and rechecking the wheat for signs that his small plants might yet produce spikes and wheat kernels. He’s in a constant state of worry. Annie goes about the tasks of any farm wife: tending the garden, canning foods, making meals, cleaning and helping with the farm. But, lately that isn’t enough for Annie; she is feeling regrets and longing for another type of life. Annie adores her children, and has loved much of her life on the farm, but as she watches her daughter getting closer to the age Annie was when she left her home, Annie can’t help but wonder what other paths her life might have taken. Birdie, 15, does not want to stay on the farm. She dreams of a different life, a life in a city full of far different opportunities than she can get in Mulehead. Birdie is in love with Cy, a boy from a neighboring farm, who Birdie believes shares her dreams. Fred, 8, is a happy, though weak, child. He has had some health problems throughout his life and for unknown reasons Fred doesn’t speak at all. Instead he communicates with small chalkboards and slips of paper and with his family through both physical and facial gestures. Fred is happy to be on the farm and easily finds ways to entertain himself there.
The days of summer are long and hot in I Will Send Rain just as they truly were in 1934. Each tiny cloud brings with it the hope for rain, but time after time the rain doesn’t come. One morning, as Birdie is working with her father she notes a quietness and meadowlarks chirping. She stops and notices, “In the distance, a black haze that looked like mountains. The heaviest clouds she’d ever seen were rolling toward them. Delight rose up in her as if she’d been handed a big, pink-bowed package.” Birdie ran to her father and pointed out the clouds, Sam’s face bloomed with relief and he told Birdie, “Go get your mother. The rains have come.” Those clouds were a dust storm, something never experienced before; relentless wind, fine dust that destroyed, and entered buildings at every crack and crevice. This was just the first of many storms that changed the lives of the Bells and many of their neighbors. Some gave up their farms and moved away to places they hoped would be luckier for them, others, like the Bells, fought the storms and tried to keep at least some of their farm working. But, there were costs for the Bells. The dust storms brought changes to the members of the already fragile family that would lead them to make choices that would transform their lives more than the drought and dust ever had.
I loved Rae Meadows’s I Will Bring Rain for many different reasons. It was an historical fiction in and era and with a theme that I knew little about, so it educated me as to just how devastating the Dust Bowl years were. The characters in the novel were extremely well developed and each was so likeable. None were perfect and all made choices that were at times difficult to see, and yet the author made it very clear that each decision was one that had to be made. Finally, the ending, which I’m not going to talk about, other than to say it was perfect for the story. I Will Send Rain is definitely a novel you should read! Grade: A
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