James, a part-Native American teenager, lives in the Southwest with his grandfather and is haunted by dreams of heat, dryness, and strange songs. Something draws him to study the culture of the vanished pueblo people who lived in the nearby desert.
Spring Rain, a courageous Anasazi girl back in the 13th century, was the last descendant of her grandfather, the tribe’s wise man. He taught her all the magical chants of her people, but not their meaning. That special knowledge had to be saved for a boy, perhaps the son she would bear one day, who would lead the nearly starving tribe out of their drought-ridden wilderness.
James is pulled magically into this past when Spring Rain sings the songs from the cliff top in blind desperation: There is no youth for her to marry, and so the tribe faces extinction. James’ life will entwine with hers, creating a living link between past and present.
Author J. Alison James makes the most of the attractive time-travel plot device in Sing for a Gentle Rain, vividly evoking the austere, ritualized daily life of the pueblo people. The tender, tentative love between the two protagonists is delicately handled, and although there’s great poignancy in their inevitable parting, there’s also gratification in James’ new and deeper ties to his roots. B+