Tuesday, April 01, 2008
A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith
Deb Smith has written another winner about the South, this time it’s about Florida Crackers. Although there is a romantic aspect to this story it really is about a group of misfits on a ranch in Florida.
Ben Thocco is part Seminole and owns a cattle ranch in Florida. His little brother, Joey, has Down’s Syndrome and is dying from a heart problem but Ben has taken care of him from the moment Joey was born. All of Ben’s ranch hands are mentally challenged in some way or another, but he’s managed to find jobs for them that suit their talents.
Kara Whittenbrook was adopted by a couple of rich environmentalists who raised her in Brazil. When they died she learned she wasn’t their natural daughter and set out to find her birth parents. She finds them at the Thocco Ranch.
The story is narrated by both Ben and Kara. Sometimes it goes for pages from one point of view and at other times there’s a quick transition. Only occasionally did I get confused as to who was telling the story.
The book’s title comes from Ben’s description to Kara of how his ranch-hands see him. “Look how they put up with me. I ain’t the fastest hoss in the race, or the most lovable, but they find excuses to like me anyhow. That’s what really makes ‘em special. Most people look at a leaky soul and see nothing but trickles of good intentions fallin’ on bone-dry earth. But these folks? They see a gentle rain.”
I found myself wanting to savor this book in a way I rarely do. The descriptions of the land, the people, the animals were so lovingly drawn, I wanted to take my time. Normally I tend to skip the descriptions and just hit the highlights skimming the paragraphs, but not with A Gentle Rain. And I enjoyed the slang, uneducated language of Ben contrasted with the overeducated, Yale graduate, Northern heiress phrasing of Kara’s.
I hope Jennifer will add her comments when she finishes reading it.