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A Novel

Written by Bev MarshallAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Bev Marshall

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 448 | ISBN: 978-0-307-41654-4
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In the tradition of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and The Secret Life of Bees, this luminous, heartfelt novel explores the tragedies and triumphs, the pleasures and sorrows of two women, Tee Wee and Icey, their families, and the white family that employs them as cook and housekeeper on a tenant farm in rural Mississippi.

Though the women are as different as water and wine—Icey is feisty, hot-tempered, and impulsive, while Tee Wee is more submissive and disciplined—both are driven by a passionate determination to give their children a better life. Through trying times, they are the pillars, fierce and resilient; yet they celebrate life with a love of food, music, and family that makes even the most traumatic moments endurable. The illicit love between Tee Wee’s daughter Crow and the white landowner’s son Browder; the heartbreaking death of one of Icey’s children, for which she will blame herself; the murder trial of Tee Wee’s youngest son which threatens to tear apart not just their family but the entire town—all these events are interwoven with occasions of joy, including Crow’s fulfillment of her lifelong dream and Tee Wee’s own hard-fought success.

A richly emotional epic spanning two decades in the Deep South, the story of Tee Wee and Icey and their families are a prism through which we view the universal—racial strife, dysfunctional families, secrets and redemption. Illuminated by a resonant storytelling voice and dialogue that rings loud and true, Right as Rain provides indelible portraits of indomitable characters and an almost tangible sense of place, while revealing a deep understanding of race in mid-century America’s rural south.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Chapter 1.

Tee Wee stood on her front porch, arms folded over her huge breasts, black, bare feet wide apart. She weighed more than two hundred pounds, and in her Sunday navy blue dress with red stripes, over which she wore a small white apron, she resembled a large mail- box. On her head she wore a straw boater with black streamers. As she reached to straighten the hat, adjusting the streamers so that they curled around her neck, she thought how unfair it was that the Parsons had chosen Luther to be the one to go get this Summit woman who called herself Icey. And on a Sunday, too! Tee Wee’s day had begun at five when she had stumbled to the kitchen to make pies for dinner at Mount Zion. Then at meeting four sinners had been called to Jesus, which meant an extra hour of testifying and singing, and when she had finally got- ten home after three o’clock, she barely had time to make her fa- mous chicken pie and put her Sunday clothes back on before Luther was due back.

When Tee Wee saw an orange ball of dust swirling up the hill, she crossed her arms and took a deep breath. Now she could see the black car slowly moving toward her. The 1940 Ford was ten years old and didn’t run half the time, but its chrome bumpers were still shiny, and it was the only car owned by a colored on Enterprise Road.

Now another woman was sitting in the passenger’s seat of that Ford. “Here she comes,” Tee Wee said. “Here comes misery up my drive.” Last week Mrs. Parsons had broken the news that Tee Wee’s daughter Ernestine wasn’t going to get the housekeeping job after that no-good Pansy had quit. No, she was giving the job, the tenant house next door, and half of Tee Wee’s vegetable garden to this Icey. And all because Icey’s man had run off and she was kin to Idella, who cleaned up the white Methodist church. “So she got young’ns to feed. We all got them,” she mumbled to herself. And the worst insult of all was Luther having to drive up to Summit to fetch her and her children. Didn’t the woman have no friends to help her? Like as not, she thought. Woman can’t hold her man can’t hold no friends.

Luther pulled into the small circle of shade offered by the only oak in their yard. Tee Wee began counting heads in the car. Luther’s. Hers. Three young’ns. Tee Wee smiled. Four of her six were in the house behind her. The back doors of the car opened and the passengers began falling out of the Ford. None of them had on shoes. She kept smiling. Then she saw a pair of black patent leather pumps dangling from beneath the door of the passenger’s side. Her smile vanished. She wished she hadn’t taken off her shoes, but they were two sizes too small, and her feet had been killing her after wearing them to meeting this morning. When Icey finally got out of the Ford, Tee Wee saw that she was nearly as large as herself and also in her early thirties. The woman’s skin was walnut-colored, and she was wearing a white lace dress with a blue aster blossom stuck in one of the holes over her left breast. Her head was, Tee Wee saw with relief, hatless. Luther, who normally limped from an injury caused by a mule falling on his left leg, swung around the car like he’d never seen a jackass, much less had one fall on him.

Tee Wee didn’t move. Let them come up to her. “Bout time. Supper’s on and gettin scorched.”

Luther laughed like she’d said something funny. “This here’s our new neighbor, Tee. Name of Icey.”

Icey nodded, dipping her head to show a big silver barrette holding up her black curls. “Tee Wee,” she said. “Look like we gonna be neighbors a spell.”

Tee Wee turned her back and opened the screen door. “Look like that,” she said, pulling the door open and stepping over all the children who had been leaning against it. “Ernestine, Crow, you girls come for these young’ns,” she called to her daughters. Let this Icey know she had help in her house; let her know she didn’t raise no trash. And she grinned, hurrying back to the kitchen. Let her smell my chicken pie and greens cookin and see them four pies on my windowsill when she look out hers.





Icey didn’t notice the pies because she was too busy inspecting her wonderful new home. After Luther followed Tee Wee into their house, Icey had led her children inside the adjacent, identical one, where they would now be living. Four rooms—more than she’d ever had before—a roof that looked like it wouldn’t leak, and most wondrous of all, electricity! Every bare bulb hanging from the ceiling in each room came magically alive with a small orange glow when she flipped the little lever on the wall.

Looking to her left, she saw the small kitchen, which had a wood-burning stove, a washstand, and even some shelves to put dishes on. The other door from the front room led to a back bedroom, and from there she could see into another small bedroom. No windows, but there was one in the kitchen and one in the front room, and only two panes were broken. “Thank You, Lord Jesus,” Icey said, lifting her head to the wooden ceiling. Preacher Smith had said the Lord would provide and He had.

The house was furnished with only a few sticks of furniture: a couch with broken springs and stuffing protruding out both cushions, a small wooden table in the kitchen, two straight ladder-backed chairs, and one mattress on the floor. Icey kicked off the shoes she’d stuffed paper in to make them fit and threw herself down on the couch. She sagged to the floor. “Okay, young’ns,” she called to the children who were wander- ing through the house like scattered ants. “Bring all them boxes in; we home.”





When Tee Wee turned out the lights at nine, she noticed Icey’s house was aglow with pumpkin light. Hidden in the darkness of her own window, she stood looking through Icey’s kitchen into the front room. Two naked children were sprawled out on the floor on sheets and blankets, and what Tee Wee declared to herself were “nothin but rags.” Craning her head sideways, she could see Icey sitting on the couch, still wearing the lace dress and shriveled blue aster; she held something in her hand that looked like a book. Raising the window, Tee Wee stuck her head out into the cool night air. It was a book, and the woman’s head was down like she was reading it. Tee Wee felt enormously jealous. Her secret dream was to learn to read and write. Her Ernestine could read, Crow, Rufus, and Paul, too, but Tee Wee herself could barely make out her name. “I said this woman was trouble, and here it is sittin right there next door to me.” She slammed the window down and made her way in the darkness to her bed, where Luther lay sleeping with his mouth wide open. Crawling in beside her man, Tee Wee curled her big body around his bony form. Readin ain’t everythin, she told herself. Let her sleep with that book; I got a man.

Icey and Tee Wee came out of their houses the next morning at the same moment and stood planted on their porches staring over at each other like gladiators about to enter an arena. This Monday morning was an overcast, gray fall day, and the obscured sun gave off little warmth. Tee Wee pulled her sweater arms down over her square hands. She knew it would be hot in just a few hours, but for now the wool felt comforting to her. Icey, she saw out of the corner of her eye, had no sweater, but she looked perfectly warm in her sleeveless print housedress. Tee Wee yawned and stretched, stalling for time to decide how to handle this situation she’d have every morning now that Trouble had moved in. Well, she decided finally, weren’t no help for it. They’d be going to the same place at the same time every day. “Mornin, Icey,” she called across the few feet between them.

Icey nodded. “Look like a beautiful day.”

Tee Wee took another look up at the gray sky. “Might rain, though,” she said.

“Might at that,” Icey said, sauntering down the three wooden steps to wait for Tee Wee. “I hopes not. Children will get wet walkin to school.” She wanted Tee Wee to know that all of her children went to school.

Tee Wee was smiling as she came down her three steps. “Yes, mine’s got a umbrella, though.” With three broken ribs, she wasn’t going to mention.

“Oh,” Icey said. “Well, maybe it won’t rain anyway.”

“Maybe not,” Tee Wee said, walking on toward the Parsons’, “but I believes I just felt a drop on my head.”

Icey caught up with her. “I didn’t feel nothin. You sure a bird ain’t found you?”

Tee Wee walked faster. These morning walks to work were gonna be nothing but misery from now on. “I knows the difference between droppins and water,” she said.

Icey smiled. She thought to herself that these walks with Tee Wee might turn out to be the best part of her day.





At the Parsons’ house the two women gave each other wide berth. Tee Wee hardly ever left the kitchen, and although Icey’s cleaning chores included that area, Tee Wee made it clear that she trusted no one to clean her domain. Icey, who was allowed to take her noonday meal at her employer’s, never complimented Tee Wee on her fried chicken, blueberry cobbler, tea cakes, or even her chicken pie, which all the Parsons declared to be the best in Mississippi, and so the two continued as they had the first morning, sparring with words. They wore dresses normally reserved for Sunday meeting; they waved starred schoolwork their children brought home in each other’s faces; they mentioned nearly every possession they had acquired of any worth at all. When Icey set her iron wash pot on her front porch, Tee Wee produced her own with red plastic flowers peeking out of it. On Wednesday Tee Wee set a china milk pitcher on her kitchen windowsill, and by Thursday Icey had placed a china sugar bowl on hers. And every evening when Tee Wee pushed a protesting Luther out onto her front porch, Icey would respond by going inside and opening her Bible, which she read aloud in a voice that sounded like the preacher’s when he was ordering devils out of the hearts of his congregation.

Icey’s and Tee Wee’s children were, however, fast friends by the weekend. They shared the few homemade toys they possessed between them: corn husk and clothespin dolls, slingshots, balls made of twine, pine straw and chinaberry jewelry, and whittled wooden swords and guns. At Sunday meeting the children sat together while Icey and Tee Wee chose separate pews. Icey wore her white lace again, and Tee Wee had sewn a bit of red ribbon on the sleeves of her navy blue Sunday dress. If Icey noticed the addition, she showed no sign. Thus, Icey’s first week in her tenant house ended as it had begun: Icey went to bed with her Bible, Tee Wee with her man. And both warriors, already battle-weary, dreamed of victories in skirmishes yet to come.

Icey’s second week as Tee Wee’s neighbor brought only more stalemates, and on Thursday Icey grudgingly complimented Tee Wee on her lemon meringue pie. At first Tee Wee thought Icey was only baiting her again and watched her face carefully before answering. When she saw genuine pleasure in Icey’s eyes after forking another bite into her mouth, Tee Wee straightened her back, lifted her head, and said, “It’s in how long you beat the whites makes meringue right. I beats four minutes longer than most.”

“Well, it sure taste good.”

They were sitting on the back steps of the Parsons’ house resting between the noontime and evening meals. Icey continued to look at Tee Wee without the ice in her eyes Tee Wee thought she was named for. “Well,” Tee Wee said, scraping her plate with her fork, trying to think of something nice to say back. “You done a good job on that old mirror in the hall. Seem like the woman Parsons had before you just smeared it up every time she touched it.”

“I use newspaper and vinegar. That do the job right on mirrors. Windows, too.”

“Parsons is pretty picky bout their help.” Then, in the habit she’d fallen into, she couldn’t resist adding, “I guess you ain’t used to workin for such fine folk.”

Icey stood up and held out her saucer and fork to Tee Wee. “I don’t reckon the Parsons is any more picky than them Manchesters I work for in Summit. They used to entertain the governor of this here whole state, and he came to visit one day and said, ‘Icey, you does keep things nice round here.’ That what he said.”

Tee Wee stood up, ignoring the saucer and fork Icey was holding out. She couldn’t think of anybody who’d visited the Parsons worth mentioning. Silently, she turned and entered her kitchen. A governor, she thought to herself. Imagine that.

Icey, following her in, set her dish on the table. “Well, that pie was good, Tee. I best get back to dustin the furniture. See you later.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you whether I wants to or not,” Tee Wee mumbled, slinging the saucer into the sink with such force it shattered into tiny pieces.

The next day on their walk to work Tee Wee brought up the subject she’d been burning to know about ever since she’d met Icey. “What happened to your man?”
Bev Marshall|Author Q&A

About Bev Marshall

Bev Marshall - Right as Rain

Photo © Chris John

Bev Marshall grew up in McComb and Gulfport, Mississippi. She holds degrees from the University of Mississippi and Southeastern Louisiana University, where she taught in the English Department. Her short stories have appeared in Xavier Review; Potpourri; Maryland Review; an anthology, Stories from the Blue Moon Café, Vol. 1; a college textbook, Acts of Discovery; and elsewhere. Her first novel, Walking Through Shadows, was a July/August 2002 Booksense pick, a Featured Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild, a finalist for the Florida Parishes Regional Arts Award for Literature, and was selected by the Times Picayune as one of the best debut novels of 2002. She lives with her husband, a retired Air Force officer and Delta Air Lines Captain, in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, just down the road from the cage where a live alligator serves as the town’s main tourist attraction.

Author Q&A

Calinda Andrews, a beautiful anchorwoman for a popular television morning show in Jackson, Mississippi, has driven down to Bev Marshall’s home to tape an interview with her. Bev thinks Calinda looks a lot like Crow but suspects she can’t sing nearly as well. Calinda is sitting on a fake leather couch in Bev’s family room, eating pound cake topped with juicy Louisiana strawberries. Bev is pretending that she made the cake, but in reality she bought it at the Piggly Wiggly just down the road from her house, five miles west of Ponchatoula, Louisiana.

Calinda Andrews: (Flashing a gorgeous smile) Delicious cake. Did you
make it?

Bev Marshall: Uh, well, my mother gave me a great recipe for pound
cake.

CA: This cake reminds me of all those fabulous dishes Tee Wee cooked
for the Parsonses and her own family in Right as Rain. Why did you
choose that title? I imagine a lot of city folks don’t know where that expression
comes from.

BM: I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re probably right. I grew up
in an agricultural environment in Mississippi where, as you know, the
summers are very hot and often dry. Rain is paramount to the farmers’
livelihoods, to their very existence. A drought can mean disaster. Therefore,
rain means that all will be well.

CA: So when Icy tells Tee Wee that Glory is right as rain after her recovery
from her appendix operation, she’s saying she’s well?

BM: Yes, the phrase Right as Rain was coined and expanded to mean
faith that all would be well. When I began writing the novel, I had faith
that the lives of my characters would turn out to be right as rain and
chose the title for that reason.

CA: I can’t help noticing that you’re not African American. (Laughs)

BM: (Laughing too) Boy, you have such sharp eyes.

CA: So why did you write in African-American voices? Four of your six
characters are African American.

BM: Right again! I never intended to write in black voices. The first
time this phenomenon occurred was back in 1995. I was writing a short
story called “Peddling Day” about going peddling with my grandmother.
She sold eggs and vegetables in McComb, Mississippi, and often she
took me with her into town. I loved knocking on doors, meeting people,
peeking into their lovely homes, and I wanted to set down the feelings
I had as a young girl. But about halfway through the story I began
to hear the voice of an African-American child named Katie. That’s
when I realized that this story wasn’t really about me; it was about an
unpleasant experience that happened to this little girl when she went
peddling with her grandmother.

CA: That must have been a weird experience for you.

BM: It was, and I assumed it was a one-time aberration, but then it happened
again.

CA: When you began writing Right as Rain?

BM: No, before that. The second time I heard a voice I was writing a
story called “White Sugar and Red Clay.”

CA: I think I read that story in an anthology.

BM: Yes, in Stories from the Blue Moon Café. It was published in Xavier Review
first, though. And that story was supposed to be about my dad.
When he was a young boy, his bulldog killed another dog, a beagle, and
he had to shoot his own dog. Again, I was writing along picturing my
dad in overalls, barefoot, walking down a red clay road with his dog,
and then suddenly in the snapshot view in my mind, dad’s skin began to
darken.

CA: Are you pulling my leg? I don’t believe you.

BM: No, it’s true. He got darker and darker and turned into the character
of J.P., who was an African-American child burdened with much
more sadness in his life than my father had ever experienced.

CA: And in Right as Rain, J.P. is Tee Wee’s son.

BM: Correct. When I began writing the novel, J.P. returned and took
his place in Part Two.

CA: Okay, let me get this straight. You say you hear voices, have visions.
Are you on medication for this? Because if you aren’t, I know
some wonderful experts in the mental health field whom I’ve had on my
morning show.

BM: (Laughing) No, I’m not a bona fide schizophrenic, just a recreational
one. Not on any medication at all.

CA: All right. I’ll take your word for it. Now tell me about Tee Wee and
Icey. Did you know these women or someone like them?

BM
: I knew Tee Wee, but not Icey. The woman I based Tee Wee’s character
on was named Angilee, but her daughter’s name was Tee Wee,
and I chose to use her name instead. Angilee lived next door to my paternal
grandmother, and I often played with many of her numerous
grandchildren. My great-aunt knew Icey, and I have met her son, who
lives near my dad in McComb, Mississippi. It was Icey’s story that captured
my imagination.

CA: Icey’s story is true?

BM: Partially. Icey did have a son named Memphis who was accidentally
killed when a truck ran over him after he fell from a gate on my
aunt’s pasture. It was actually Icey who ran over him, but I just couldn’t
write a story wherein a mother caused the death of her own child, so I
made up the sheriff and gave him the responsibility.

CA: Okay, now let’s get to the juicy stuff. What about Crow and Browder?
Where did they come from? Did you know any interracial couples
during this era?

BM: Oh no! In the ’50s and early ’60s, I thought only movie stars and famous
people married interracially. This was taboo in the South. No way
would an interracial couple live in the community where I grew up.
Too much hostility, even rage from the racists. It would have been dangerous
to stay there.

CA: How well I know! But back to my question: How or why did you
put them in the novel? Where did they come from? Did some white girlfriend
of yours transform into an African-American woman?

BM: Not exactly. If I had to choose a model from real life for Crow, it
would be my mother because she had a lot of Crow’s traits.

CA: Like what?

BM: My mother was an invalid for more than thirty years of her life. I
couldn’t count the number of times the doctors told us she most likely
wouldn’t live through an illness or operation. And yet she managed to
help my father in his business, raise two children, travel . . . she even
went to Tahiti after open-heart surgery. She taught my brother and me
to never give up, like Crow. She believed that if you really wanted something,
you could figure out a way to get it with determination and hard
work.

CA: So you infused those traits into Crow as a way for her to become
successful against all odds?

BM: Uh-huh. When I began writing about Crow, I didn’t have a clear
grasp of her character, but she fascinated me from the first time I typed
her name on an old word processor. I tried to write a story about her,
but I could never get it to work. I knew that she was seductive, headstrong,
and independent, but I didn’t know how that translated into a
story. Then when I began writing Right as Rain, she suddenly became
clear to me, and I knew how she fit into the novel.

CA: Talking about Crow leads me to sex. Your characters engage in
quite a lot of it, and if they’re not doing it, they’re talking about it. In
addition to Crow and Browder, I’m thinking of Icey and Deke and
Ruthie and Dimple. Some pretty hot stuff there. You’re blushing.

BM: (Laughing) I know. I’m shy about writing about sex, but the two
things you can’t leave out of a story are sex and God. Those two forces
are the motivators for so many of our decisions and actions. When I
need to write a sex scene into a story, I always imagine my dad and the
ladies at Pisgah Church reading it, and I have to stop writing until I can
get past that.

CA: Oh come on, don’t you enjoy writing about it just a little bit?

BM: Well, truth be told I often write a lot more details in those scenes
and maybe get a little carried away, but then I go back and hit the delete
key, excising the parts I want my readers to imagine on their own.
Sometimes what you leave out is better than what you put in.

CA: That’s the truth! That’s when you cut to a commercial break. How
about some more cake?

BM: Back in a minute.

(Conversation resumes after Bev returns with two more slices of cake.)

CA: You should have put some recipes in your novel. The descriptions
of Tee Wee’s food made me hungry the whole time I was reading.

BM: Imagine how much weight I gained while writing about those
meals. I have a confession to make, though.

CA
: Oh good. This is the part I like best. What’s the secret you haven’t
told?

BM: I don’t know any of those recipes. I’m not much of a cook myself.
I just like to eat.

CA: (Laughs) So you didn’t hang out in a kitchen growing up. You
must have been squirreled away somewhere writing, dreaming about
becoming an author someday.

BM: No, not at all. I never dreamed I’d publish a book. All of my relatives
were farmers or railroad workers. My dad was the manager of a
farmers’ cooperative. Sold horse and mule feed, chicken scratch, fertilizer.
The only reading material we had in our home was farm journals
and the Bible. Well, and a few books I found under my mother’s bed
and read in secret during junior high school.

CA: I imagine you learned a lot in those!

BM: (Grinning) More than I comprehended at that time. Anyway,
when I went to college, my parents’ dictum was to study to become a
teacher. And, of course, I did later become a teacher and loved it. But
like most women reared in my era, I believed that homemaking, raising
children, keeping a neat house was my primary role. I was a military
wife for more than twenty years, and in that capacity, I spent much of
my time nurturing young wives with absent husbands. But I guess you
could say that all the while I was a closet writer. I viewed writing as a
hobby, like my husband’s passion for golf. I saw it as a guilty indulgence.

CA: What made you come out of the closet? And how old were you
when you finally confessed to being a writer?

BM: I was in my thirties. I was living in Hampton, Virginia, and I
drove over to Christopher Newport College in Newport News to sign
up for a parapsychology class and another class that was canceled. I saw
on the schedule that a creative writing class was offered at the same
time as the canceled class, so, on a lark, I signed up for it instead. At
the end of the semester, when the professor told me that I had written
one of the best stories he’d ever had in the class, I began to think of myself
as a real writer with the potential to become a published author
someday.

CA: Nearly everyone who watches my morning show knows what
books I love and recommend, but what about you? Who are the authors
you admire? Did any of them influence or inspire you?

BM: I love so many authors I could never name them all. I taught
British and world literature at Southeastern Louisiana University and
loved every author I taught to my classes. I revere the novels and plays
of Southern authors like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor,
Katherine Anne Porter, and Tennessee Williams, but I would say that
the contemporary Southern writers like Clyde Edgerton, Ellen Gilchrist,
Kaye Gibbons, Lee Smith, Barry Hannah, and Larry Brown have influenced my own work far more than any other authors. When I began
reading their stories and novels, I thought how similar their stories were
to those I had heard my relatives tell when I was a child. I realized that
all of these wonderful tales would be lost with the demise of my relatives,
and now I’m eager to write their stories as a kind of legacy for
them.

CA: So you’ve got more stories to write?

BM: I won’t live long enough to tell them all.

CA: So what’s next? In Right as Rain, you’ve left your characters, every
one, about to embark on a new life. Do you have any plans for a sequel
to inform your readers as to how all of these new endeavors turn out
for the characters in Right as Rain?

BM: So far, none of them have come back for a chat, but if they do, I’ll
be ready to write down their words.

CA: Well, let me know if they do and I’ll drive back down for some
more cake. You didn’t bake it yourself, did you?

BM: Nope. But I know where to get more.

Praise

Praise

“An old-fashioned Southern family saga and a page-turner, a wonderful blend of comedy and tragedy. This novel takes on, without fear, the complex truths and ironies that make up black-on-white life in the deep South. Bev Marshall knows her land and her people. These voices ring true.”
—BRAD WATSON, author of The Heaven of Mercury

“Bev Marshall has managed the rare feat of mixing history and fiction, memory and magic, and she has accomplished the all but impossible task of writing about race in a way that is utterly generous, without censure, apology, or fear. . . . After this one book, she’s one of my favorite writers. I look forward to reading everything she’s written and is going to write. It’s not often that a writer’s staying power is so evident so quickly.”
—KAYE GIBBONS, author of Ellen Foster and Divining Women

“One of those quietly absorbing stories that draws the reader right in and never lets go . . . Like all the best Southern writers, Marshall explores those time-tested ideas of faith, race, place, and family and makes them her own. But the real grace–and glory–of Right as Rain is that it is pitch perfect. Reading this novel is like sitting on a porch in a summer breeze listening to an old friend tell you a story you know well but can’t wait to hear again.”
–New Orleans Times Picayune

Right as Rain is a saga in the best sense of the word. . . . Marshall has put her heart and soul on the page for the reader and the result is a novel so haunting and beautiful that it will stay with me always. This book firmly establishes Bev Marshall as one of our most amazing and vivid American voices.”
—SILAS HOUSE, author of A Parchment of Leaves and Clay’s Quilt

“Fans of Lee Smith, Ellen Gilchrist, and Fannie Flagg will likely find Marshall’s latest as a welcome addition to the collection of fine Southern fiction.”
The Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS)

“Marshall is an extraordinary storyteller. . . . [Her] greatest triumph is her ability to convey the humanity of all her characters.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I marvel at the wisdom tucked away inside these pages, at the generosity and artistic grace on display here. This is a fine, fine book.”
—STEVE YARBROUGH, author of Prisoners of War and The Oxygen Man

“Bev Marshall has not so much written a novel as she has drawn back the curtain on a South-facing window, a view of Mississippi fifty years ago, of forty and thirty years ago. . . . They are not so much characters as people we have known; their stories not so much witnessed as shared. The shifting points of view—female and male, black and white—never shift away from honesty and authenticity.”
—SONNY BREWER, editor, Stories from the Blue Moon Café anthology

“A brilliantly crafted page-turner, Right as Rain spins a cinematic tale of familial love, everlasting friendship, and secret desire that will entrench you in the lives of its characters so completely you will never want it to end.”
—SUZANNE KINGSBURY, author of The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me and The Gospel According to Gracey
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Right as Rain follows Tee Wee and Icey’s friendship from their first meeting until the scene between them at the end of the novel. While they love and support each other, theirs is a relationship fraught with competition. In one scene their anger incites them to an actual physical battle. Is this friendship realistic? How does it compare to the relationships of modern women?

2. What impact does the civil rights movement have on each of the
characters, especially the African-American characters? How would
their lives differ today had they been born post–civil rights movement?

3. The author of Right as Rain is white. However, the majority of the
voices in the novel are those of African Americans. How well did she
depict those voices? In what passages did she fail or succeed?

4. Many of the conversations between Ruthie and Dimple center on
sex and religion. How do their views differ? To what do you attribute
their dissimilar views on sexuality and God?

5. Crow is one of the most complex characters in Right as Rain. She is
determined to leave Parsons Place and, after the death of her cat, vows
never to love anyone or anything. Yet, she falls in love with Browder,
seemingly against her will. How and why does she recant her earlier
feelings? Is this consistent with her character?

6. Much of Part Three is devoted to J.P.’s trial. Considering the era
and J.P.’s race, did you expect the verdict to be guilty or not guilty? To
what or whom do you attribute the verdict? Is it a realistic one?

7. Ruthie’s relationship with Dennis is problematic throughout the
novel. Trace the development of that relationship beginning in high
school. Why did Ruthie marry Dennis? What factors contributed to her
staying in an abusive relationship for so many years?

8. The mother-daughter relationships in Right as Rain differ greatly
between the African Americans and the Parsonses. Characterize and
contrast the interaction between Tee Wee and Crow and Mrs. Parsons
and Ruthie.

9. Browder’s obsession with films and Crow begins in puberty. Yet he
marries Missy and takes over the farm after his father dies. Do you see
Browder as a weak character or do you consider his actions noble?
Why? Would his relationship with his father change if the novel were
set in recent times and, if so, in what ways?

10. At the end of the novel Icey and Tee Wee have become business
partners. Do you think this partnership will succeed? Why? What do
you foresee happening between them as they grow older?

11. If Crow had told Browder about her pregnancy, how would he
have reacted to this news?

12. The bond between Ruthie and Tee Wee is sustained throughout
the novel. Trace the development of their relationship from Ruthie’s
childhood to J.P.’s going-away party. How does their relationship change?
How does it remain constant?


  • Right as Rain by Bev Marshall
  • January 25, 2005
  • Fiction
  • Ballantine Books
  • $13.95
  • 9780345468420

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