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The Personal History of Rachel DuPree: A Novel Paperback – July 26, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143119486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143119487
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Weisgarber's atmospheric if unexceptional debut of pioneering hardships follows a staunch South Dakota farmwife as she struggles with misgivings about her ambitious husband. The story begins as Rachel DuPree, wife of one of the only African-American ranchers in the Badlands in 1917, watches her husband, Isaac, lower their six-year-old daughter, Liz, down a well to fetch water in the midst of a terrible drought. Though she concedes it must be done, Rachel--heavily pregnant with her eighth child--is distraught, and her worries set off a chain reaction of second-guessing her loyalty to Isaac, whose schemes include buying out the neighboring ranch and leaving the family to find work during the winter. As a series of calamities befall the family, Rachel must decide whether to follow the only man she has ever loved or strike a new path of her own. Rachel's homely voice isn't the most inviting, and while the racial tensions between whites, blacks, and Native Americans is pretty surface-level, Weisgarber's depiction of survival in the harsh Badlands has its moments.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Enamored of Isaac DuPree (the son of her employer) and desperate for a life beyond that of boardinghouse cook in Chicago’s slaughterhouse district, Rachel accepts a deal proffered by Isaac: join him in settling 160 acres of land offered by the Homestead Act in the wilds of South Dakota. She heads off to the aptly named Badlands in a bargained marriage of at least one year. Fourteen years later, she looks back over her life, the dreams and longing of a young woman versus the harsh reality of a wife and mother living in an unforgiving territory. After months of drought, the land, the animals, and her children are parched and on the brink. She herself is on the brink, pregnant again and coping with Isaac’s obsession with the land, the cruel demands on their five young children, and the isolation of being one of the few black families in the territory. A shimmering novel of the sacrifice, hardship, and determination of a black family in the early-twentieth-century settlement of the West. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Ann is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. She was nominated for England's 2009 Orange Prize and for the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. In the United States, she won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction. She was shortlisted for the Ohioana Book Award and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writer.

The Promise takes place in Galveston, Texas, during the time of the historic 1900 Storm that killed thousands. Ann was inspired by an abandoned, dilapidated house on the rural end of Galveston and by an interview she conducted when writing an article for a local magazine. Her debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, takes place in the South Dakota Badlands during 1917. It was inspired by a photograph of an unknown woman sitting in front of a sod dugout.

Ann was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. She graduated from Wright State University in Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Houston. She has been a social worker in psychiatric and nursing home facilities, and taught sociology at Wharton County Junior College in Texas.

In addition to Ohio and Texas, Ann has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, (home to Imperial Sugar Company), and Galveston, Texas. She and her husband, Rob, are fans of America's national parks and visit at least one park a year. Ann is currently working on her next novel that takes place in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the winter of 1888.

Visit Ann's website at

Customer Reviews

Ann Weisgarber's debut is a doozy of a novel.
Maudeen Wachsmith
Rachel falls in love but Isaac has one thing on his mind; homesteading in the Badlands where he can stake his claim to 160 acres of land.
P. Woodland
A wonderful story, well told and fascinating, about their lives.
John W. Davenport

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Douglas R. Worgul on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best novels put you not just in a place and time other than your own, they put your soul inside the soul and body of another. You live this person's pain, sorrow, fear, confusion, satisfaction, enlightenment, and joys with them. And when you're done, you're changed. The story you have finished is now, in part, your story. It's become a part of your DNA.

This is Ann Weisgarber's singular achievement in The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. You come away from her vivid, moving, tough, and tender novel exhausted by the trials of a young African-American wife and mother scraping out a living in the Badlands of South Dakota in the early years of the Twentieth Century. You also come away stronger, wiser, and with a bigger heart.

Weisgarber has a remarkable eye for detail. The grit, dust, relentless heat, and hard-heartedness that Rachel and her family endure are rendered with such exquisite granularity, that after each chapter you feel it necessary to shake the dirt off your clothes.

Novels about tough women who triumph over seemingly insurmountable challenges are a dime a dozen. This is not one of those novels. There is nothing formulaic, forced, or forgettable about this story. It is priceless.

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree was nominated for Britain's prestigious Orange Prize, alongside works by Toni Morrison (Nobel Prize) and Marilynne Robinson (Pulitzer Prize). When you read the book, you'll know why.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. Stafford on January 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've recommended this book to everyone I know, and everyone loves it. Absolutely loves it. My book club, my sisters, my husband. Everyone is wondering when the sequel will come it. Unfortunately, I don't think a sequel is planned but it is still a great read and interesting to consider what might come next. It starts off in a very tense situation and continues to grab the readers attention. The story is that a young black mand and woman in Chicago in the early part of the 20th century want to ranch out west. Well, he wants to ranch out west and she wants to get out of Chicago and experience adventure with this life and with this intense man. It is a hard, lonely life, and the husband is willing to sacrifice almost anything to acquire more land and more cattle. I liked being taken to that time and place. It felt like I was there. It is a short book and the pages turn very quickly. Cancel your plans for the evening if you start reading this book today.

I haven't written many (or any?) book reviews before.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ursula K. Raphael TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected this book because I lived in South Dakota for a long time, and I still have family there, so I was very familiar with the setting. I was surprised that someone wrote a story involving the Badlands from the POV of an African-American woman named Rachel living on a struggling ranch.

When the story began with Rachel's daughter, Liz, being lowered into a dried up well, I knew then I wouldn't be happy unless I read the entire book right away. There was never a point where I felt I could put the book down. Each chapter introduced another level of Rachel, as well as her life with her husband, Isaac.

I was expecting her to have lost some children, just because of the time period, but the descriptions of the family's thirst and hunger was extremely upsetting. Even the farm animals suffering was described in made me feel like I was experiencing the drought myself. After reading about one hardship after another, I wondered why she would have stayed with Isaac for so long, when the original agreement was not a traditional marriage proposal.

I was suspicious of the pregnant Indian woman with the mixed-race little boy, but Rachel's reaction was unpredictable. She was a very complex character, and Isaac seemed more like a shadow of a person compared to Rachel. It was disappointing to see them being just as racist with the Native Americans, as the white people were to them.

I was very pleased with the way Rachel handled herself in the end, but I was disappointed that the story didn't continue onto the train.

This novel was written as if Rachel herself was writing it; I thought the flashbacks made the story stronger too.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on September 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Twenty-five year old Rachel Reeves worked in Mrs. DuPree's boarding house for African-American men since she was seventeen and never laid eyes on Mrs. Dupree's son, Isaac. When he comes home from fighting in the Civil War and she sees him for the first time, she immediately falls in love. She is fascinated with his dream to ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota and his proposed plan to take her along. If she agrees to marry him, he will be able to double his land, but she must forfeit her share of land.

Several years and five children later, pregnant Rachel and Isaac are in the middle of a drought. There hasn't been water for many months and the dust is so thick you can't cut it with a knife. The animals are slowly dying and their food supply is next to nil. Isaac leaves Rachel in search for food and water, and she comes to the conclusion she can't take living on an isolated ranch anymore. She wants much more for herself and her children, but she knows Isaac will never leave his ranch.

Ann Weisgarber paints a vivid portrait of Rachel's struggle in the Badlands. She illustrates clear images of the ranch built in the middle of nowhere, the raging gusts of blowing dust, to the hunger and thirst her family endures. Weisgraber allowed me to enter into Rachel's world and witness her role as the backbone of the DuPree family as she mustered more strength each day to do what was necessary to take care to her children. There were a couple of predictable events, but THE PERSONAL LIFE OF RACHEL DUPREE is a tender novel of survival, love, determination, with a small insight on African-American homesteaders.

Reviewed by Sharon Lewis
of The RAWSISTAZ(tm) Reviewers
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