The Rainwater Secret – My Book Review

Monica Shaw
Genre: Historical Fiction / Medical Missionaries
Publisher: Self-Published
Date of Publication: March 31, 2017
Number of Pages: 354

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The Rainwater Secret is a deeply moving, historical fiction novel about a woman who travels

to Africa to teach the leper children who were banished from their villages. Single and feeling there is nothing left for her in small-town England, Anna embarks on an adventure as a volunteer teacher with the Medical Missionaries of Mary. Life as Anna has known it is forever changed as she learns the culture that would banish its sick, disfigured, and crippled to the bush. Babies are left to die on roadsides, children are chased away to live by whatever means they can find. The aged are abandoned.

Anna’s daily life is an adventure as she travels from one village to another across a hostile land with few passable roads, rickety bridges threatening to fall apart and casting occupants on the jagged rocks far below, and weather that turns a calm river into a roiling death trap. In spite of the trials, Anna also manages to find love and family in this godforsaken land.

Follow this adventure through disease, weather, strife, death, and determination to turn a few acres of land into a loving home for the outcast lepers of Nigeria.

“There are a lot more tracks I can’t read so I’m still learning, but at least I haven’t seen a hungry lion or an angry elephant. When I have to bathe, the tracks in the mud make my trips down to the river adventurous. Before, I didn’t even blink an eye, or for that matter have a dark thought. Now, I’m stopping every thirty seconds and studying the tracks. It makes my journeys somewhat longer and certainly a bit more stimulating.”

The Rainwater Secret is a story filled with pain, loss, and resilience. A typical story yet – it’s so much more and here’s why. The story revolves around Anna who was dealt two devastating blows and she sold everything and went to Nigeria to become a missionary teacher to children with leprosy.

In the beginning chapters, I already knew three predictable things about the progression of this story that the marriage between Anna and her Clarence was not going to be. Secondly, I knew Anna’s mother would be dead when Anna returned from picking up her mother’s medicine. Third, I knew what would happen next with Anna when she needed to escape the pain of those losses.

What I did not see coming was how Anna would immerse herself fully into the missionary life in Nigeria helping people with leprosy especially the kids. Even with the given warnings to reach out to the kids and people hidden amongst the trees around the settlement, the best part of this story evolved between Clarence and Anna. This Clarence aptly named by Anna was a small boy with leprosy when she first encountered him in the remoteness of Nigeria. She watched him grow into a young man and become a man and have children of his own. It was this Clarence who gave her the rainwater secret that kept Anna sane during her time in Nigeria.

“When the rains came, the ground turned to mud and funny enough, green grass sprung up out of nowhere. It was like the grass had been hiding and all of sudden it came to life.”

When I put the book down my mind kept being transported back to what was going to happen to Anna next so I had to get it back it. I can only imagine experiencing a country like Nigeria before modernism took hold. Author Monica Shaw transports you to this country when roads and bridges were almost nonexistent and leopards roamed freely through settlements.

When you experience so much death each death leaves an indelible memory that cannot be erased and Anna experienced a lot of death.

Shaw moves the story eloquently along with huge passages of time. The story really comes to life with the personal letters written by Anna to her friend back in Britain.

I truly admire authors writing fiction books who find ways to incorporate nonfiction elements in their books. Shaw opened my eyes to a history I did not know regarding the Biafran war. Shaw gave this war a heart wrenching, gut-twisting, a few tears shed turmoil for the main characters of the book in the last chapters. When you think everything will end peacefully the most emotional roller coaster of the book begins in its pages. The Medical Missionaries of Mary actually does exist and was started in Nigeria in 1937 by Mary Martin.

The Rainwater Secret is an apt title for a book that deals with so much death, hope, and love. Shaw crafted a story around a heroine that shows no matter how much adversity one faces in life, no matter how much death is thrown at you, it’s how you choose to live your life afterward that matters and at least Anna was smiling at the end.

Anna pursed her lips. “Memories of death tend to stick with me.”

The one question I’ll always want answered is what was in that box that Grant gave Anna? If you notice by the quotes I pulled from the book having Anna connect with the nature around her was truly meaningful to me as a wildlife biologist. It’s those kinds of connections that books memorable and special. Thanks, Monica for The Rainwater Secret.


Monica Shaw is a native of Dallas, Texas where she has been a successful entrepreneur. She attended St. Thomas Aquinas, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, and earned her Geology / Petroleum Engineering degree from UT Austin. Her debut novel, The Rainwater Secret, started off as a personal research project looking into the life of her great aunt who became a missionary teacher. Monica is married with 3 children.

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APRIL 23-May 3, 2019


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