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Excerpt from Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Rain Village

by Carolyn Turgeon

Rain Village
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    Oct 2006, 320 pages

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She looked at me with surprise just as we came to her desk, where three people stood waiting for her return. All old farmers, I realized, with their hands full of books. I expected them to be angry, having been made to wait like that, but they all lit up and practically shone as Mary came near them.

“Well, we’ll have to fix that,” she said, winking at me, before taking her seat behind the desk. “Why don’t you sit next to me while I help these gentlemen?” She smiled up at the first man in line as I sat on a stool nearby.

“Shakespeare, I see,” Mary said to the man. “The sonnets. They’ll make a romantic of you yet, Joe.”

I swear that old farmer blushed all the way down to his collarbone. “I liked Troilus and Cressida,” he said. “You were right about that’un.”

Mary smiled, then picked up another book and put it in with the one he was holding. “You’ll like this even better.”

I watched Mary check out books for at least half an hour before the library began emptying out. I stared at her mass of hair, so black it seemed to glint blue in parts, and her brown shoulders. My sister had brought home a movie magazine once and I had felt the same way then, looking at the women with pale hair and dark lips, their eyebrows like swooping lines across their foreheads. I touched my hair with my hands, imagined my body stretching up and filling out, covered with swishing fabrics like the ones Mary wore. This is what it means to be a woman, I thought. She picked up each book and thumbed to the cards in the back, and I watched her strong, sure hands.

I sat on the stool, praying she wouldn’t tell me to leave.

After a while, when the library had cleared out, Mary turned to me. “It’s busiest in the mornings and evenings,” she said. “Mostly I have the afternoons to myself.” She smiled. “So tell me, why don’t you know how to read? Aren’t you in school?”

“No,” I said softly. “My folks don’t believe in schooling. I’m supposed to work in the fields with the rest of them, but they don’t want me on account of my smallness.” I could feel my face growing red and lifted up my hands to cover it.

“Don’t believe in schooling?” she said. “What do they have you do all day, then?”

I looked up at her, nervous, but saw she wasn’t laughing. “I used to have to do chores but my house is so big, I couldn’t do much. I can’t do anything right is what my mama says. Sometimes I sneak out and hide in the fields or come to town to watch people. My mama wants me to eat potatoes and stretch my body in the window so I’ll get bigger. Then I can make my contributions, she says.”

“Well, you should have visited me sooner because that doesn’t sound like much fun at all.” She laughed. “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, in fact.”

I took my hands slowly from my face and rested them in my lap. I looked up at her and smiled.

“You know,” she said, leaning in closer, “I didn’t get along with my family either.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she said. “My father was not a nice man. I left home as soon as I was able.”

“Oh, one day I would like to do that.” All of a sudden it seemed possible that I could leave Oakley some day, just like that.

“You will,” she said. “There’s a big place for you in the world, no matter what you think now. You’re like I was when I was your age, back when I thought I had no place at all.”

I just looked to the floor, my heart beating wildly.

“What do you love to do, Tessa?”

Excerpted from Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon. Copyright © 2006 by Carolyn Turgeon. Excerpted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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