Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review-The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, by Ann Weisgarber

by Ann Weisgarber
Viking Penguin
336 pages
August 12, 2010

 Why is this little girl suddenly about to be lowered to the dark bottom of their well attached to a plank, while her mother stands above praying for Jesus to stay by her daughter’s her side?  The Personal History of Rachel Dupree opens with a disturbing image, frightening details of a six year old child conjure a number of possibilities as to why she is strapped to the plank. Weisgarber sets a foreboding tone with intense dramatic tension from the onset.  Questions bombard your metacognition with a compulsion to read on for answers. 

The story is about Rachel, a worker in a boardinghouse, who becomes smitten by the owner’s son.  Isaac Dupree,  an African American, is from a socially prominent family in Chicago.  His dream, to the disappointment of his domineering mother, is to own land out west and acquire a spread with considerable acreage. Isaac believes landownership will guarantee status and respect among his predominately white neighbors.  To Isaac, land makes the man, it means everything.   Isaac agrees to marry Rachel, in return, she will deed her allowable 160 acres to him. They make a pact to stay married one year as they journey to the Badlands of South Dakota to stake their claim. To Rachel love is the force that drives her, with a determination to make her marriage last beyond one year. 

The Badlands, a desolate and harshly brutal environment is not an easy life for most women.  The isolation can be miserable and lonely with the proximity of neighbors a distance away.  Yet, it is breathtakingly beautiful with majestic panoramic landscapes that appear infinite. Isaac is quite successful and his quest to acquire land has made him one of the largest landowners around.  

In 1917, after surpassing their one year anniversary by thirteen years, they are still married and a severe drought is threatening their world. Rachel is pregnant again and her family means everything to her. Survival in the Badlands is not easy for anyone, but Isaac Dupree has something to prove, he is on of the few African American ranchers around, and to him land earns him respect.  Rachel sees more opportunity for her children, wanting them exposed to city life. A fissure begins to widen between the two that threatens to fracture the family.

Weisgarber’s story is a moving memoir-like read of a pioneering women with tremendous strength and wisdom who faces tough choices. The dialogue flows with a natural rhythmic cadence you would expect to hear at this time. 

The Great Plains offered little support for the supplicant role of women, or the displaced Indians. You will embrace The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, a rich affecting read that will endure.

Disclosure: This book was a free copy sent to me by IRB for review. The review posted is my honest opinion and free of bias.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011]. 

1 comment:

Laura said...

Sounds like a pretty interesting read! I'll have to keep my eyes out for this one. Thanks for sharing your review!