I Will Send Rain
Author: Rae Meadows
Reminiscent of The Bridges of Madison County, with a slice of Steinbeck’s grim itinerants of California, and a treble not of Flannery O’Connor’s depressing realism, Rae Meadows surprises and embraces us with her second novel, I Will Send Rain.
It’s 1934 in Mulehead, Oklahoma, a small farming community beset with a 77 day and counting drought, horrid dust storms and crop failure. The land is the novel’s backdrop: as the dust consumes the crops and kills, as the lack of water creates an abyss, and as Mulehead’s farmers leave in droves, one family stays and persists.
Samuel and Annie Bell, their 7 year old son Fred and 15 year old daughter Birdie are trying to survive the drought along with many of their farming neighbors. Annie, who lost a baby, Eleanor, after Birdie was born, still grieves. And she and Samuel worry over Fred, their young son who has never talked and has severe asthma and fragile health. And Annie worries about Birdie. Her impetuous daughter who thinks she is in love with a 17 year old neighboring farm boy, Cy Marks. Annie suspects the two teenagers are having sex and she worries that Birdie will lose her future to the farm, as has Annie.
As the summer burns up the crops and the sky refuses to send rain, the dust storms come to destroy the town’s future. Samuel, Annie’s husband, hears God tell him to build an ark, and he and Freddie gather wood to build the boat in their barn. Annie finds herself restless and doomed with sexual desire for Jack, the town’s bachelor Mayor, and Jack is obsessed with Annie. Birdie finds herself pregnant the day after the entire Marks family has stolen away to California, leaving Oklahoma for good. The failure of their farm and the sea of dust have taken over their future. Cy did not even say goodbye.
Jack asks Annie to go away with him as he is leaving the ruined town to go back to Chicago. Annie knows she cannot leave her children. Annie herself was meant to marry a preacher that her minister father had picked out for her, and she married Samuel, a poor farmer instead. She understands Birdie as she has been there as her daughter is now.
When a surprise dust storm catches Fred outside, he cannot get home to safety and he dies. Birdie cannot see a life in Oklahoma without her little brother. She has the baby and leaves without her. Annie and Samuel see their redemption and take it with grace and love. They see a future in the baby Rose and suddenly, the sky opens up, and the rains come.
Beautifully written and presented, Meadows has written a novel that swells with tension and parallels small town Oklahoma in the depression era. The Bible belt swallows itself in the dust as Meadows creates characters who reveal strength and courage in their flawed humanity.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A”
We received a product to facilitate our review. All opinions are our own
- You can pick up this book on Amazon.com here: I Will Send Rain: A Novel or at a bookseller near you.