Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Rainwater by Sandra Brown

Title: Rainwater
Author: Sandra Brown
Genre: Historical Fiction / Drama
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: 2009
Pages: 272

Rating: 2 out of 10

In Texas during the Great Depression, a new boarder comes to stay at young single-mother Ella Barron's boarding house. His name is David Rainwater, and he has a tragic secret - he is terminally ill and has only a few more months to live. In addition to becoming well liked and respected both in town and amongst the other boarders, David begins to work with Ella's autistic young son Solly.

This book was obviously written to be a heartwarming, sentimental story that plays on the reader's emotions.
I normally dislike overly sappy books like this, and I refuse to touch another Nicholas Sparks for that very reason. This one is much the same.

I had to laugh at the conversation in this book, particularly between the two most prominent characters, Ella and David. At first I didn't notice anything amiss, save that they tended to speak shortly and to-the-point. But after awhile, I noticed that everything they said seemed to go along these all too similar lines: someone is praised, and they reject it, and the other person rejects that, and so on until they just give up.
Here is a (made up) example:
Ella - You are so good to help me wash the dishes.
David - No I'm not.
Ella - Yes, you are good to do it.
David - It's no big deal, actually, so it doesn't even matter.
Ella - It matters to me.
David - I'm doing this for myself. I needed something to do. So it isn't a favor, I'm not a good guy, okay?!
Ella - You are such a good guy.
David - *silence*
This is not an actual conversation, but seriously, it isn't even that big of an exaggeration. And you find this exact same structure to whatever they say all through the book. Once I noticed it one time, I noticed it on every page the characters were together.

A major plot point to this book is about the government helping farming families by culling some of their cattle. Apparently, farmers herds were growing too large, and they couldn't afford to feed and care for how many animals they had. They tried to sell their livestock, but there were no buyers, and so their cattle were starving and proving useless for meat selling.
To help, the government stepped in and said they would buy a certain percentage of the farmer's cattle, and kill them (as they didn't exactly want to start a Presidential cattle herd). It makes sense, and it seemed logical.
However, this book very heavily paints it as a bad thing. It is portrayed as government help gone wrong. But however much Brown kept telling us how the 'bad' government was coming to cruelly shoot down the poor animals, I just didn't see it this way. They weren't just sweeping in and murdering family pets, they were buying virtually value-less property and making a stronger herd for these farmers. It makes sense.
Here, the farmers get a call from the government to set up a day to come by. (Notice that these people set up a day, completely willingly, with the government. No force, no unexpected running in and shooting everyone down). Then, they do the necessary deed and leave. But for some reason, all of these farmers feel the need to stand on their front porches, on the verge of tears, and watch the cows be shot, with their own children and wives as well. One man takes out a gun. Another man tells us pitifully about how a calf was shot but not killed, and just laid there for hours bleeding and in pain. In other words, they wallow in self pity for a thing that they themselves arranged.
The only negative aspect of the entire set-up is that a local troublemaker drops in on many of these government dealings, with his mind made up to stir up mischief. But he isn't a part of the government.
I was hoping that the author would provide a historical note at the end, perhaps explaining why exactly she had such an unexplained, ominous view of the government aid, but there was not. Not surprising, as this is a bestseller, after all, and was handcrafted to be one.

Another thing I found very off about this story was the element of romance. It was sweet, but David Rainwater is painted as such an honorable, self-sacrificial, good man, that it didn't seem to fit. He is certainly not selfish. He is, in fact, perfect to a fault. He knows that he is terminally ill, and will soon die. But even so, he leads Ella into developing feelings for him, and the two fall in love. He is the one to encourage this in the first place, when he says about the ending of A Farewell to Arms, that however sad he knew the ending was going to be, he would never have deprived himself of the beauty of the story. He then asks Ella "Would you?"
Not once does David express guilt at cultivating a relationship with Ella, or try to push her away. It just seemed so out of character.

I try to give at least one good point about even my most hated books... Well, I suppose that I occasionally did like the homey, quaint atmosphere that this book imparted. It was rustic and sweet-tea sweet.

An average book. If you like Nicholas Sparks or other such sappy things and don't mind amateur writing, you'll enjoy this book. But if you're searching for literature, look elsewhere.