I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows introduces us to the Bell family who live in Mulehead, Oklahoma in 1934. What is significant about this family, place and time is that it is the height of the dust bowl. A horrible time when rain disappeared for months, making the ground so dry that dust storms were normal.
Dust was everywhere, in the hair, lungs, food, there was no escaping it. This time was very devastating for families farming the land. Their crops died, their animals starved and families were struggling to put food on the table. It was so bad, they were shooting cows for a dollar to make money. Lots of families couldn’t take it anymore and moved west or south without a word, they would just disappear. Other families tried to survive hoping one day soon rain would arrive.
Samuel Bell is determined to stay on the land he acquired in the 1920’s during the great land grab when the federal government parceled Oklahoma farmland to individuals. Some people in the small community think Sam has lost his mind as he builds a boat like Noah in anticipation of the great flood he has been dreaming about that is coming very soon. His wife, Annie, questions if she should go back to her family in Chicago and leave Sam behind because he is no longer the man she married or stick it out because he is her husband.
The Bells have two children: Barbara Ann “Birdie” aged 15 and Fred aged 8, who is mute. They had a daughter named Eleanor who died as an infant. Eleanor’s memory still haunts Annie, which chips away at her self-esteem and affects her ability as a wife and mother. Birdie secretly becomes engaged to Cy whose family disappears in the night headed for California leaving Birdie heartbroken and obsessed with following Cy and his family but she needs to finish school. Fred is always exploring and soon becomes swept away in his father’s obsession and helps with the construction of the boat.
Meadows does a great job weaving a story highlighting how a family can become so wrapped up in their own personal lives and projects that they don’t see their entire family unraveling. Since I grew up on a farm, I found this a fascinating story. We had times when it wouldn’t rain for weeks and the dust from the gravel road next to our house would coat everything. It would come into the house, it would turn the grass white. It was everywhere. So I found this a very interesting story. Very well written. I found myself right next to the characters as they each struggled with whether to stay or leave.
A luminous, tenderly rendered novel of a woman fighting for her family’s survival in the early years of the Dust Bowl; from the acclaimed and award-winning Rae Meadows.
Annie 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. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.
Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat