Monday, December 12, 2011
The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber - Review and Blog Tourr
The Personal History of Rachel Dupree opens with Liz, Rachel Dupree's six year old daughter, sitting on a plank that's being lowered into a well. Liz isn't being drowned, she's going down to get water for the family because the drought has left them with no other options. Or so Isaac Dupree has convinced his wife Rachel there are no options. They've been married a long time and Rachel is starting to lose faith in Isaac. She's seen him put their land ahead of the welfare of the family too many times. He will do ANYTHING for the land. Not so much for his family.
Rachel and Isaac have been married a long time. They met when Rachel was a cook in Isaac's mother's boardinghouse. He came home after the war and she fell in love. Isaac fell in love too, but not with Rachel. More with the land she could give him. He was determined to go west and make his fortune as a landowner and he was entitled to 160 acres. He didn't want to marry Rachel but he could see how she felt about him. And he did want her 160 acres - immediate land doubling.
So, they got married and both Rachel and Isaac thought they got what they wanted. They were both wrong.
Ann Weisgarber tells the Personal History of Rachel Dupree in alternating time periods but always through Rachel's eyes. While Rachel's story of love making you blind is compelling, I find the setting is an even stronger character: the drought so strong they could only take sips of water, the lightning storm that promised survival on one hand but didn't quite make it, the landscape so harsh that all the neighbors were leaving them. Rachel uses the weather as sort of a touchstone, it brings backs memories of other, mostly happy times. These times serve to give Rachel the strength to make some tough decisions. Or at least to plan them.
I'm hoping that if I'm in the situation that Rachel is, where my husband continually proves that he doesn't actually love me but really loves the land, where my husband continually puts my children and me in danger, when my family is about out of food and my husband will not ask his mother for money, where there is never enough money, ever. I hope that I don't wait over 14 years to get strong. I hope that I'll pay attention to the signs that he gives me along the way. That the ache I get from his disapproval - and my kids too - serve as a warning.
Even sort of knowing what's going to happen doesn't prevent The Personal History of Rachel Dupree from pulling you in. The vivid scenery descriptions place this book solidly in the 1900s. The tumbleweeds, the shack, the clothing - this is good historical fiction.
About the Author
Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She was a social worker before earning a master’s degree in sociology at the University of Houston and becoming a teacher. She divides her time between Sugar Land and Galveston, Texas.
The Personal History of Rachel Dupree has been optioned for a film my Viola Davis who played Abilene in The Help.
Thanks to Penguin Books and TLC Book tours for the book!