“Summer of No Rain” by Laura Hunter

Summer of No Rain

Laura Hunter
Bluewater Publications  (2022)
ISBN: 978-1949711820
Reviewed by Chelsy Scherba for Reader Views (09/2022)

“Summer of No Rain” by Laura Hunter is a historical fiction story based on true events that occurred in the 1960s in rural Alabama.

Margaret Ann Odom is a bi-racial girl of twelve years old. Like most girls her age, she enjoys tree houses, animals, and playing with her best friend. But her happy, ordinary world is about to change. When Miss Claire, a beautiful, educated white woman appears at her door to convince Margaret Ann’s mother to enroll her in a free health program for underprivileged girls, she finds herself in a world of pain and suffering as doctors treat her for the “blue jennies,” giving her repeated shots and vaccinations several times a week. Little does Margaret Ann know that she is the victim of illegal medical experimentation and a sinister plot to rid her of a normal life.

I couldn’t help but feel angry at the injustice that was done to this young girl. Although she is fictional, there were real girls out there that experienced something like in the 1960s. It’s genuinely appalling to know that medical experiments like those done in Nazi Germany also occurred here in the United States. This book made this almost forgotten part of history seem very pertinent to our current times and gave me a deeper understanding of the reticence some people feel towards taking vaccines, particularly those in the African American community.

This book is told mostly from the perspective of young Margaret Ann, so this book would probably be suitable to share in middle school or high school classrooms. There were some biblical passages and passing religious references, but I wouldn’t consider this a Christian book. I also enjoyed the subtle imagery the author shared regarding hyssop, fertility, and new life. These themes were woven throughout the narrative in clever ways that bring the tragedy of what was done to Margaret Ann up to an even more haunting level.

There are likewise some charming characters featured throughout the book. Brother Blues, Bailey Renfroe, M’Dear, and Walter all come to mind. I don’t want to say much about Miss Claire, but I also enjoyed her role in the story. The author really made me feel like I was there with Margaret Ann, experiencing all the highs and lows of life with her. One thing that bothered me a bit was I didn’t feel like there was much closure with the Nell incident, but otherwise, this book was touching on many levels.

I feel people of all ages will enjoy this book. It is educational and helpful at explaining what happened and why so that everyone can understand. The editing was exceptional and easy to read. Despite the appalling subject, the book manages to preserve some of that childlike innocence until the end. There are also questions at the end of the book to help spur discussions in a classroom setting. I recommend “Summer of No Rain” by Laura Hunter to teachers, students, and lovers of history.

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