Reader's Comments
Rainwater by Sandra Brown


By Sandra Brown

PBR Book Review:

Rainwater by Sandra is a book which combines a bit of historical fiction and romance to create a excellent story from start to finish. Set in rural Texas during the 1930’s the story revolves around Ella, a single mother who runs a boarding house while caring for her handicapped son. In order to make ends meet Ella must rent out rooms in her home. The daily struggles of Ella and her son descriptively depict the hard times many experienced during the depression. We are starkly reminded of the prejudices faced by certain groups in the early 1900’s. It was interesting to compare the daily norms and expected behavior of the thirties to today. The various tenants of the boarding house provide a interesting cast of characters which you will surely enjoy. This wonderfully paced book would make a terrific book club choice.

Book Club Talking Points:

This book combines both romance and historical fiction to provide an excellent outlet for discussion. The characters are as vivid and memorable as the stark countryside where the story takes place. As single mother and proprietor Ella has to make certain compromises in order to be accepted by the community. This along with the wonderful love story will make an enjoyable book club choice.

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*Discussion Questions

1.What qualities does Ella Brown possess? What is her greatest strength? What is her greatest weakness? Which qualities are inherent and which do you attribute to her situation in life?

2. Rainwater is set in Depression-era Texas. What details does Brown use to create atmosphere? How does the setting affect the action of the story?

3. It's clear from the beginning that Ella wants to prevent Solly's odd behavior from being misunderstood and ridiculed, and to avoid a situation which would result in his being taken away from her and institutionalized. Why does Ella reject the advice of Dr. Kincaid and Mr. Rainwater? Is maternal love impeding her from making a decision.

4. Mr. Rainwater is an outsider, which automatically makes him an object of speculation and curiosity. Why does he want to keep his illness and his affluence a secret? What clues to both did you find? Did you have any unanswered questions about him?

5. The small-town grapevine plays a dramatic role in the story. Discuss the ways in which it was beneficial, and ways in which the effects of gossip were damaging. Would the story have unfolded differently had it been set in a larger city? How so?

6. The financial strain of the era influences the actions of the characters. How does Brown portray the dire straits of the poor? Did the kindness and charity of Ella, Margaret, and others surprise you?

7. The showdown between Conrad Ellis's gang and the hungry mob is a pivotal scene. The actions and dialog of each character reveal much about that character. What is each party trying to protect or gain? Who is right and who is wrong?

8. Discuss how the relationship between Ella and Rainwater evolves from that of landlady and boarder into a loving one. How would you describe their relationship? Both of these characters are coping with a personal calamity—how does that influence their behavior toward each other? Would they have fallen in love had their circumstances not been as bleak?

9. What different kinds of prejudices did you find in the story and how were they expressed? Are there commonalities between the oppressed groups?

10. Describe the black community's affection for Brother Calvin. What does he represent to them? Why is he so highly admired by people of both races?

11. Is Brother Calvin a hero? Is he a martyr? Are the qualities of a Depression-era hero different from a modern hero?

12. At the end of the novel, why does Mr. Rainwater take responsibility for Solly's actions? Was he protecting Solly or punishing himself? Did his health or love for Ella factor into the decision? Is he a hero?

13. The novel is framed as a flashback. Did this add to the suspense?

14. Except for the prologue and epilogue, every scene is told from Ella's point of view. Did you realize this as you were reading it? Did Brown do this intentionally? Why?

15. Do you see any parallels between the financial hardships then and those facing our nation now? How are they similar and how do they differ? In general, do people respond to differently now to setbacks than people who lived through the Great Depression did?

Book Summary
From the Publisher: The year is 1934. With the country in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression, Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. Between chores of cooking and cleaning for her residents, she cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose misunderstood behavior finds Ella on the receiving end of pity, derision, and suspicion. When David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging, he comes recommended by a trusted friend as "a man of impeccable character." But Ella senses that admitting Mr. Rainwater will bring about unsettling changes. However, times are hard, and in order to make ends meet, Ella's house must remain one hundred percent occupied. So Mr. Rainwater moves into her house and impacts her life in ways Ella could never have foreseen. The changes are echoed by the turbulence beyond the house walls. Friends and neighbors who've thus far maintained a tenuous grip on their meager livelihoods now face foreclosure and financial ruin. In an effort to save their families from homelessness and hunger, farmers and cattlemen are forced to make choices that come with heartrending consequences. The climate of desperation creates a fertile atmosphere for racial tensions and social unrest. Conrad Ellis privileged and spoiled and Ella's nemesis since childhood steps into this arena of teeming hostility to exact his vengeance and demonstrate the extent of his blind hatred and unlimited cruelty. He and his gang of hoodlums come to embody the rule of law, and no one in Gilead, Texas, is safe. Particularly Ella and Solly. In this hotbed of uncertainty, Ella finds Mr. Rainwater a calming presence. The kindness he shows other boarders, Solly...and Ella herself move her. Slowly, she begins to rely on his soft-spokenness, his restraint, and the steely resolve of his convictions. And on the hottest, most violent night of the summer, those principles will be put to the ultimate test. From acclaimed bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a powerfully moving novel celebrating the largess and foresight of a great bygone generation. It tells a story that bears witness to a bittersweet truth: that love is worth whatever price one must pay for it.
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