R My Name Is Rachel by Patricia Reilly Giff has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
The year is 1936, and the Great Depression is underway. Rachel is an avid reader and loves learning, especially building her vocabulary. Her mother died after giving birth to her youngest sister, Cassie. Rachel's father takes care of the three children: Rachel, 12, Joey, 11, and Cassie, 10. Pop has lost his job at the bank, and one night he announces to the family that they must relocate from the city to the country in order for him to try for a position at a bank in North Lake. Leaving the city means leaving Miss Mitzi, whom they love like a mother (and hopefully a future stepmother), and the news is devastating.
The family moves in March and arrives at a dilapidated farmhouse with broken windows, no electricity, an old outhouse and no indoor plumbing. Rachel learns that because of the Depression, her two loves, the school and library, are closed. On the second day after they arrive, they awaken to a snowstorm, and Pop doesn't reach the bank until the afternoon; someone else gets the job. Pop then travels from town to town, finally landing a job at a struggling grocery store. The owner gives food as payment, mostly in the form of turnips, potatoes, canned green beans and tomatoes. Eventually, the store closes, too, and Pop is forced to take a job constructing a highway that is far away. It means he'll be gone for at least two months, but the children assure him they can manage on their own.
Left to themselves, the children become resourceful and do get by, though they miss their father. They stay busy with tending the laying eggs and hatching the chicks, starting a garden, fishing and acquiring a goat named Xenia. Weeks pass, and they do not hear from Pop. One day Cassie insists she wants some of the money Pop left for rent to paint her room gold. Rachel and Joey resist the idea, but eventually give in to Cassie. Angry from the resistance she's met, Cassie takes all the money to town, buys the paint, but then loses the rest of the money as she walks home. Soon after, the realtor, Mr. Grimm, stops by to collect the rent. Cassie meets him, and he leaves when he finds they don't have the rent money. She doesn't tell Rachel and Joey what's happened, but they can see she's upset. When she later disappears, they spend hours frantically searching for her, even into the night. Finally Rachel finds her in the barn, and Cassie tells her what happened. Rachel is able to negotiate a month's delay, but Mr. Grimm says they'll have to pay interest.
The children are down to a few jars of green beans and tomatoes for food and no money. In despair, Cassie secretly writes to Miss Mitzi to tell her they have little food, but she doesn't mention the rent problem. Miss Mitzi closes her flower shop and arrives in North Lake on the train — a surprise for Rachel and Joey. She brings a suitcase loaded with food for them and stays a few days. She loves the farm and expresses her wish that she could live there with them. Miss Mitzi tells Rachel that Pop has never revealed his feelings for her, so she could not hope to live in North Lake with them. With this insight, Rachel shows her a letter Pop had started before he left, but never mailed. It reveals enough of his affection for her that Miss Mitzi leaves — with plans to return to the city to close her shop permanently and then return to the farmhouse and the prospect of marriage. Shortly after she leaves, Pop returns and indicates his agreement with Miss Mitzi's plans, and the children look forward to having her as their new mother.
Other Belief Systems
Nothing severe. The girls use the word gaa when an idea doesn't appeal to them.
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Literary mentions: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; Little House in the Big Woods; The Wizard of Oz; A Girl of the Limberlost; Understood Betsy; Anne of Green Gables
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Readability Age Range
9 and up
Patricia Reilly Giff
Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books