Mississippi born Bev Marshall has crafted a memorable and evocative tale, revolving around three families. Set in the mid/late 20th century American South, Right as Rain tells the story of Tee Wee, a woman determined to hold her family together and make a better life. She works as cook for the Parsons, renting a house on their land with her husband Luther and is less than enthusiastic when they hire a new housekeeper, with whom she feels an instant rivalry. Still, she and Icey form a thorny friendship that endures through the years that follow, punctuated by both tragedy and success.
It is also the story of the Parsons' daughter Ruthie, who longs to be loved for herself, but chooses unwisely. Her story is both heartbreaking and uplifting as she learns about loyalty and friendship. Her brother Browder and Tee Wee's daughter Crow also figure prominently.
In many ways the setting is the most impressive aspect of this thoroughly engrossing tale, coming to life on every page, the heat and humidity palpable. I could hear the thunder, taste the dust and smell the animals on the farm. Especially impressive was how well Ms Marshall wove the political and social history of the period into the narrative. I learned a lot without realizing it, which speaks volumes for her skill as a writer.
Her dialogue also stands out. Each of the characters has a distinctive voice and she reflects time and place without resorting to cliché.
The many threads of the plot came together in a gripping court trial, the outcome of which sees the climax of the story and kept me reading with the proverbial bated breath. A fine ending to this compelling and very readable family saga, whose characters will stay with your long after you close the book.
© Teresa Basinski Eckford 2004
This review first appeared in the August 2004 issue of The Historical Novels Review