Friday, February 7, 2014

The Personal History of Rachel DuPREE by Ann Weisgarber

I still see her, our Liz, sitting on a plank, dangling over that well. She held on to the rope that hung from the pulley, her bare feet pressed together so tight that the points on her ankle bones were nearly white. She was six. She had on her brother's cast-off pants, and earlier, when I'd given them to her, she'd asked if wearing pants made her a boy. I'd told her we'd wait and see see, and that had made her giggle. 

Title: The Personal History of Rachel DuPREE
Author: Ann Weisgarber
ISBN: 9780143119487
Publisher: Penguin Books/2011
Pages: 321

1917. Badlands in South Dakota. It has been struck by a severe drought. Rachel DuPREE and husband Isaac are trying hard to survive. Rachel is pregnant with her eighth child. She has five surviving children and does not wish to bury the one she is carrying. Isaac is resolute. He will not give up the land but Rachel has misgivings now. When Isaac lowers Liz, their six year old daughter, into the well to get water, Rachel cannot bear to look into Liz's accusing eyes. She starts reminiscing her life and starts questioning. 

Looking back, we learn that, Isaac and Rachel acquired 360 acres of land from the Homestead Act, as a black man - or even a woman - was entitled to stake a claim. Rachel married Isaac because she was in love with him but Isaac married her for acquiring land.  

Twelve years later, Rachel is not so sure about her choices in life. She wants better for her children, not this struggle. They do not have small pleasures of life. She knows she has to take a decision for the sake of her children.

Told in the voice of Rachel, the prose is not flowery but spare and beautiful. We are with Rachel all the way. We learn about "agency Indians" and the black settlers and it makes us think, who land is it in the first place. 

I will quote Rachel here: "I admired the feel of a book. I opened the book and held it to each girl's nose. I alwasy believed that smelling the pages of a book took a person into the story." 

That is the way I felt about this novel.


Lianne @ said...

Interesting opening, I think I remember seeing this book in the bookstore in the past. Happy reading :)

My Friday Book Memes

Kathy Martin said...

Sounds interesting but this is not the sort of book I would ever choose. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Sandra Nachlinger said...

This sounds like a meaningful novel that would stay with me long after I'd finished reading it. I'll get this one.
Here's the link to my Friday post: HANK & CHLOE.

JC Jones said...

Interesting story and great start. Click here to go to Mixed Book Bag

DNAPL said...

Wow, what a strong story. I was just working on something concerning the Dust Bowl so this is also very interesting to me.

I look forward to seeing what you think. Thanks for stopping by to see my post at Leopards and Dragons today.

JLS Hall said...

Wonderful opening. This one sounds very intriguing. And I love smelling the pages of books, too.

Elizabeth said...

This looks like a book I would like.

THANKS for sharing.

I didn't get a chance to do a post, but I just finished THE FEVER TREE. It is a beautiful, powerful, mesmerizing book.

Reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, Booklikes, etc.

Review will be on my blog along with a giveaway on February 21.

Meanwhile, there are two giveaways on my blog if you want to stop by.

Hazel Lee said...

Oh, wow... thanks for sharing this. I am so curious to know what happens to Liz and Rachel's kids! I have to get a copy of this book!