Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved.
She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.
So she stays.
But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?
Drought describes a group of congregants led by Sula Prosser, a woman raised by a trapper father and no mother. Soon after Sula falls in love with Darwin West and becomes engaged to him near the year 1820, her father returns home from the woods with a man named Otto following him. Sula’s love for Darwin dies when she meets the new stranger whose blood has the power to heal and prolong life. But Otto disappears, leaving nothing more than a box behind and the child in Sula’s belly.
By now she has a following of people receiving weekly communion. Darwin West turns against Sula and her congregants, forcing six dozen men, women and children leave town and flee for the mountains. Their hope is to begin a new way of life in cabins by the lake. But their peace is short lived as the land they inhabit is owned by West. His revenge over love lost is fierce and soon the followers are enslaved by an evil landowner and his hired men called overseers.
Sula’s community are harvesters of water, spending their days scraping drops with a spoon from living leaves into pewter cups. They remain trapped in time, aging and growth, away from civilization and forced to work each day under drought conditions. If they fail to meet quota for the day they are refused food and beaten.
The story is told from the point of view of Sula’s daughter Ruby. She carries with her the ability to heal with her blood as did her father Otto. But, Ruby is different. She is determined and independent. After all the brutality she has witnessed, Ruby is done waiting for someone to come save the congregants from Darwin’s hand. She’s ready to fight.
A newly hired overseer named Ford shows interest in Ruby, he gives her hope in change. She is forced to make a choice between the life she has always known or the mystery that lies beyond the fence. Ford shows Ruby that she has an alternative. A new beginning is waiting for her. Will she continue to follow her upbringing or something that goes against all she has been taught?
Bachorz’s writing is riveting and deep. The society she portrays is reminiscent of modern day groups we read about but never live amongst. Her characters truly believe in their hearts, that one day they will be saved, all the while living in daily abuse. Drought brought up issues of faith, but it’s not the kind of faith I would consider main stream. It is faith in a human with supernatural abilities, with a cult like feeling. This fictional story had me questioning how many hidden communities exist today held under the hand of brutal leaders amongst religious offshoots and factions. Drought is a dystopian story that will leave an impression.
Drought is fast paced and I finished it quickly. It is suspenseful and the author’s writing is brilliant. Bachorz paints such a living picture of the surroundings, the beliefs, the actions and the personalities of each character you feel you are watching events unravel firsthand. The ending is a shocker. Be prepared for a slew of gut wrenching, nightmarish moments ever present in the story. This is not a book I would recommend for children or tweens as there is vividly described human violence. There are a few minor swear words and inferences to sex. Overall, I think the themes are better suited for those 16 and older.
If you enjoyed Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan you may also enjoy Drought. It’s a book that left me thinking and pondering the conditions some humans have and will endure… wanting to know more.