There I was, trying to find a nice trashy [sort of oxymoronic, that] book to read, so I thought Sandra Brown would be reliable in that department, and she goes and writes this lovely piece of literary/historical fiction instead. This is the second time I’ve been thwarted in trying to find a trashy book! [Clearly, I need more practice.] It also provoked yet another instance of The Sobbing-in-Public Reader as I finished it on the plane.
This story, inspired by actual events during the Great Depression (see, for example, this first-hand account here), takes place in 1934 in the small town of Gilead, Texas. Ella Barron is a young single mother who runs a boarding house. The local doctor brings her a new boarder, David Rainwater, who is dying of cancer, but Ella agrees to take him in because he is Dr. Kincaid’s relative.
Much to Ella’s chagrin, Mr. Rainwater gets involved in the local politics, which include conflicts over a very distasteful (and historically authentic!) government program to help farmers and ranchers; the tension between rich and poor; and the hostility between black and white. He also takes time to help Ella’s autistic son Solly.
Ella has tried to keep her emotions bottled off all these lonely years struggling to support herself and her son, and had built a wall of protection around her heart. But David Rainwater teaches her that life is like Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms: even knowing the ending is sad, why deprive oneself of the beauty of the story?
Evaluation: I’ve seen this called “a little gem” and I agree. Definitely worth the short time it takes to read. Don’t forget the Kleenex.
Published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009