Ruby's Reviews > Drought

Drought by Pam Bachorz
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Feb 03, 2011

bookshelves: teen
Read in February, 2011

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I'm so confused. When I read the description of this book, I thought it was supposed to be a Dystopina. Having read it, I'm convinced that it's not. Drought is unlike any book I've read lately. It reads kind of like an allegory or a fable but, also, not. I can't quite define it--and I've no doubt that the marketing team sat around a big table looking at each other blankly until someone said, "Hey, it's called Drought, right? That means it's, like, practically a Dystopian." And hence, a marketing strategy was born. It's not quite Dystopian, not really Urban Fantasy. It defies categorization.
That said, I'm the last person to argue that a book shouldn't be published because it's difficult to sell to any particular audience. Drought doesn't support that argument, anyway. It's an interesting, thought-provoking book that had enjoyable elements. It was slow to start, but as soon as I was thirty pages in, I was sucked into the story as surely as if it were made of dark chocolate. Sadly, by the time I got to the end, that enjoyable (nay, heavenly) dark chocolate feeling was replaced by one of confusion. Even when I got to the last page, I was unable to figure out Bachorz's world. Was it like ours, but with a hidden supernatural community? Clearly, there's a "modern" world outside of Ruby's (I know, awesome name, right?), but how modern is it? One scene in the novel takes place at a drive-in movie theatre. While cool, drive-in movie theatres are also mostly, you know, closed. So, does Ford's "modern" world resemble our world circa 1950? I still don't know. Our glimpse of it is so brief as to be frustrating and not at all illuminating.
Though confusion was the primary emotion that this novel left me with, it definitely had more potential than that. Drought explores some difficult topics: faith, family, love, prisons of the mind, good v. bad, right v. wrong...I could go on, but I think you get the idea. One of the most fascinating elements to me was the concept of the "congregation". Ruby's mother is the congregation's reverend. She administers the blessing and, along with a group of Elders, is their leader. 200 years ago, the congregation fled to the woods where they now reside, not knowing that they were fleeing to land owned by their pursuer. Their faith that Ruby's father, Otto, will one day return to save them is very much a Messiah-like concept. The congregants pray to Otto and believe that, one day, he will save them. In the meantime, they suffer under the rule of a man called Darwin West, a man who makes them harvest Water. What is Water, you ask? Why, that leads me to the list of unanswered questions that I have about Drought:

1. Is the whole world suffering from a drought?
2. Does Darwin believe that the Water can only be found in these woods?
3. Who uses the Water when the cisterns are emptied? Do those people live long lives like the congregants do?
4. Why is the Water in such high demand?
5. Was the water that the Overseers drank also Water, or is only the Water from the cisterns (the water that contains Ruby's blood) Water (with a capital W)?
6. Who, exactly, was Otto?
7. Why did he leave?
8. What's the deal with Ruby's blood? It heals and it gives a long life span? I DON'T GET IT!
9. What?!

I didn't even know I had that in me but, gosh, it sure feels good to let it out. So much befuddled me about this book that it completely distracted me from the love story. I know, you're shocked, right? There were moments when it popped back into center stage, but even those later faded into the background, never to be addressed again. Like Ford's belief that Ruby is a heretic. (To explain why would be to spoil.) Strong words to use for something that he pretty much never brings up again.
I mentioned that there are a great many philosophical questions brought up by Drought. I give Bachorz credit for that: I'm still thinking about it, its events and its implications. I have a feeling that it will stay with me for a while. I'm less sure that I actually liked Drought. My feelings are mixed. This is definitely a book I need to talk about. Anyone game?

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