I want to tell you about a book that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. If flying under the radar was a book, it would be this one. But before I tell you why I loved it, here’s how the publisher describes the story:
This summer has the potential to change everything.
The summer of 1936 in Parsons, Georgia, is unseasonably hot, and Opal Pruitt can sense a nameless storm coming. She hopes this foreboding feeling won’t overshadow her upcoming eighteenth birthday or the annual Founder’s Day celebration in just a few weeks. As hard as she works in the home of the widow Miss Peggy, Opal enjoys having something to look forward to.
But when the Ku Klux Klan descends on Opal’s neighborhood of Colored Town, the tight-knit community is shaken in every way. Parsons’s residents—both Black and white—are forced to acknowledge the unspoken codes of conduct in their post-Reconstruction era town. To complicate matters, Opal finds herself torn between two unexpected romantic interests, awakening many new emotions. She never thought that becoming a woman would bring with it such complicated decisions about what type of person she wants to be.
In When Stars Rain Down, Angela Jackson-Brown introduces us to a small Southern town grappling with haunting questions still relevant today—and to a young woman whose search for meaning resonates across the ages.
Some may say that 17 year-old Opal Pruitt couldn’t possibly know what life is about but don’t be fooled by her youth. Opal might not harbor some of the dreams others her age are focused on but she has a strong sense of identity whittled from being abandoned by her parents and being raised by a loving grandmother, with whom she shares tasks as they work as domestic helpers in the home of a white family. The friendship Opal has nurtured with the boy in the house has matured and is ready to be tested as he returns from college for the summer.
I found the novel a real treat to read because Author, Angela Jackson Brown does a fantastic job of fictionalizing the challenges a young black woman would have faced in 1930s Georgia like poverty and lack of opportunities to escape its throes, the lack of respect shown to women both from within their groups and externally, the constant threat of violence and the need for a protector when the world doesn’t think you capable of protecting yourself. Brown presents Opal as both victim and heroine of her own story and expresses such depth of emotions in her portrayal of how this young woman morphs from one to another.
True, Opal may be wrong in not pursuing more aggressively her education but she is realistic about her skills and who’s to say her domestic ambitions are any less valid. Kudos to figuring out what you want so early (or anytime) in life. Her levelheadedness and maturity are expressed in so many other ways that might convince you she’s not wrong about this either.
On the pages, we get a side-to-side comparison of white versus Black experiences and see some of the differences as well as the similarities, like their values and how the different families rally around those who need help.
As the novel progresses and encompasses a range of highs and lows, ushering in a cycle of trauma and recovery, Brown also takes us through the breadth of emotion that gives When Stars Rain Down a full technicolor experience.
4 Things I especially enjoyed about this book
- The main character is endearing for her simple dreams amid the complexities of her life. Yes, she harbors romantic feelings for two boys for a while but even this is treated so innocently that it’s hard to fault her for indulging a fantasy and it’s also an excellent way to see her grow during the novel.
- Author, Angela Jackson Brown does a fantastic job of portraying duality – good versus evil, good intention versus commitment, religious belief mixed with spirituality, youth versus age and experience.
- The book nixes the “white savior” and “knight in shining armor” tropes and shows the power in the Black community, the strength that comes from taking responsibility for your tribe and how trauma is handled in a community.
- When Stars Rain Down also has some distinctly feminist vibes and it’s empowering to read about women protecting other women, championing for other women and gong out of their way to helping other women even when there might be no glory to gain. It’s interesting to see how villains and victims are portrayed and the responses they get on the page.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, romance and feminist narratives.
Note: I received a complimentary Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of When Stars Rain Down from Thomas Nelson Publishers via TLC Book Tours in order to complete this review. I was not otherwise compensated and the above reflects my honest opinion and genuine enthusiasm for the book.