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The Personal History of Rachel DuPree Hardcover – July 30, 2008
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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.
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.
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Top customer reviews
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.
Isaac, her only son is a Buffalo Soldier looking to retire from military service and make his fortune in the badlands, rather than return home and run his mothers businesses. These are hopeless lands where many Native American tribes have been relocated to after the famous battle at wounded knee. The government was giving land to people willing to move and settle the land there. Each person could stake a claim for 160 areas. Rachael worked as a cook for Isaac's mothers boarding house. She is a young woman with big dreams who wanted a Husband that had greater ambition than loosing his soul as others around her had in the slaughter houses of Chicago. She believes Isaac to be that man. So she strikes a deal with him to enter into a verbal contract where he gets her portion of land and she gets a year to be his wife and prove herself worthy. She gets a loveless marriage in order to realize her own dream of owning a home and having children with a man of vision and ambition. What she finds instead is a driven man who even with success can not recognize it. He ignores all the needs of Rachael, their kids and anyone else who stands in his way of owning land and being a truly free man based on his own notions of that. Isaac believes his respect is tied to the ownership of land and not to love and compassion for his family for which he displays almost none of. But Isaac may not be that different from many driven men. Isaac is in some views a mans man.
Again and again, Rachael is challenged. Her love for this man and his dream pitted against her love for her children. She works side by side with him and supports every decision he makes even when his decisions begin to affect the health and well being of her children. She finds herself bargaining against what seems to be the devil himself. She endures hardships the loss of children, the loss of herself and in many ways she is almost as soulless as the men who were working in The slaughter houses. A never ending battle. She believes only Isaac can save them even though it is becoming more clear each day that he may not be capable of making that decision. Rachael begins to realize that Isaac does what ever he deems necessary to accomplish his dream even if it calls for deceit. As his personal failings become more and more clear to Rachael she realizes the cost of her unconditional love. This book pulls at your emotions but I gave it five stars because even if you never feel as though you get to truly know any of the important supporting characters you get a a compelling look at what it means to adopt someone else's dream and to loose yourself in the process. It 's a good read but one that will leave you more unresolved than settled. You may even think twice before you ever let a faucet of water run unchecked. Indeed moving and unsettling.
I haven't written many (or any?) book reviews before.