Rae Meadows’ latest novel, I Will Send Rain, plunges her readers into Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl from the very first pages: The Bell family is hunkered down in the two-room dugout Samuel carved out of the earth when he and Annie arrived 19 years earlier. It’s 1934, and Mulehead, Oklahoma, is being hit with its first dust storm—with many to follow. When Samuel and Annie and their children, Birdie, 15, and Fred, 8, emerge, they see the garden, the house, the wheat in the fields buried under feet of dust.
As the drought rolls on, families begin to disappear, defeated by both the lack of rain and the increasingly frequent dust storms. Samuel turns to religion. Convinced that God has a plan, he decides to build a boat—an ark that, like Noah’s, will bring them to safety when the deluge finally arrives. Annie, on the other hand, has given up on God. Irritated by Samuel’s obsession with his boat, she drifts into a flirtatious relationship with the town mayor.
The strength of Meadows’ novel lies with these sympathetic and carefully drawn characters, each one confronting this harsh reality in his or her own way. Regardless of how much readers know about the Dust Bowl, reading this thoroughly engaging and meticulously researched novel will make them feel as if they have experienced it themselves.