Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Drought review

Drought
January 2011

I was completely drawn in by this book, despite and probably because of, the fact that the whole world is so alien... so strange. It leaves more questions left unanswered than not.

In the near future, Ruby lives as a slave on a compound with her mother and a rag-tag group of settlers. They are tasked by their cruel ruler, Darwin West, with carefully collecting dewdrops from surrounding scruffy vegetation using tiny pewter spoons. Failure to meet their ever-increasing water quotas results in severe whippings. Incredibly, they've been living this way for over 400 years, as they drink a communion of just a few drops of the water they've collected each week which grants them eternal life. Their encampment contains no more technology than they had in 1812, but thanks to their elixir, they are able to survive with a minimum of food and medical care. Once a year, The Visitor arrives and the congregation are briefly treated well by Darwin, who sells that years worth of work to The Visitor, who is using the water to maintain his own youth.

Ruby's father, Otto, the former leader of their group, left them hundreds of years ago. Now, he is worshipped as a god, and everyone patiently waits his return, when, it is felt, he is certain to save them. Unbeknownst to the rest of the congregation, Ruby has been "blessing" the water with a few drops of her blood. It's an ability she has inherited from her father, who is in fact, solely responsible for their longevity. As Ruby grows increasingly impatient with their hopeless existence and makes futile hints to her adopted grandmother Ellie and other members of the congregation that they should find their own escape, since Otto may never return, Ruby catches the eye of one of the newest overseers, handsome Ford.

I found it unbelievable that Ruby would so quickly fall for Ford. But, in a way, I suppose it's inevitable, as there's no one else close to Ruby's age, and Ford, being new to the overseer job, has not yet had the opportunity to abuse any of the inmates there.

The book leaves sooo many unanswered questions:
  • Is this a Christian allegory? An atheist allegory?
  • How did the congregation come up with the idea to collect water in such a laborious way?
  • Who is The Visitor? -- for one brief, horrible moment, I thought that the mysterious man who arrives to buy their yearly tribute of water might actually be Ruby's father, Otto. When The Visitor arrives, towards the end of the book, it's obvious from a few comments that he makes, that he clearly isn't. So, who is he?
  • How is it possible that the outside world never hears of their settlement, and especially their fountain of youth? They're in a small impoverished town. The overseers are young men without a chance for college. This is one of the few paying gigs in town. So, that's why the overseers are content to stay mum, apparently. Aren't the overseers traumatized at all by the abuse they are inflicting on these people? What do they tell their friends and family they do for a living? Why haven't any of the overseers cracked under pressure and tried to sell the information to outsiders?
  • How did Darwin West come to be in charge of the group?
  • Why on Earth is the congregation content to stay in slavery, once they have a chance to leave? Why does Ruby's mother feel glee at negotiating for something as simple as a few more blankets, when she could bargain for so much more?
  • Would Ruby and Ford be able to make it in the outside world?
This was a fascinating read. I couldn't tear myself away. While it certainly makes you think, it doesn't feel like a sequel is in the works, neccesarily. This reminded me of the ending of Louis Lowry's The Giver... leaving the reader to question what will happen next. I would compare this novel to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, as well, for its existentialist feel. This would be a great book for teen book groups, as there's so much material to mine for discussion. Recommended for older teens.


I borrowed this book from the library.

2 comments:

  1. Wow... I am definitely a fan of Pam Bachorz, but Drought sounds pretty confusing! I just read your full review twice, but I still feel like I need to read the whole book so that I can really understand what is supposed to be going on. I was picturing Tuck Everlasting, but then the whole "blessing" the water with BLOOD thing really threw me off. Ick. This review certainly made me anxious to read more!

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  2. Well... maybe not confusing, so much as mystifying. I kept asking myself, "Why, why is this happening, how did that get set up that way, why hasn't this society fallen apart yet?"

    I loved feeling totally immersed in their crazy world. It's not as sweet or heartfelt as Tuck Everlasting at all...

    As far as the blood goes, Ruby has amazing healing powers, and is probably immortal (or close to it) on her own. The other members of the settlement live for a long time only because they have (unknowingly) been drinking her diluted blood. I probably could have spelled that out better in my review.

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