In 1936, the Depression eats away at almost everyone. Twelve-year-old Rachel and her family are no exception. Pop lost his job at the bank, and there isn't any work available in the city. Rachel finds comfort in her books and at school, but her biggest support is Miss Mitzi, the lady who owns the flower shop. Rachel's mom died when she was just two, and Miss Mitzi has been a very special substitute. Rachel and her younger brother and sister all hope that Miss Mitzi and Pop will get married one day.
Then Rachel gets the news, wonderful and horrible at the same time. Pop has information about a bank job in a town upstate, which would mean leaving the city, all their friends, and Miss Mitzi. At least Pop agrees to bring the stray cat, Clarence, along. Rachel has been feeding him and couldn't bear the thought of just abandoning him.
Living in the country is far different from city living, but Rachel sees potential in the broken down farmhouse and the empty barn. If only Miss Mitzi could live with them. In the meantime, she and Rachel exchange letters all the time. But the family's new hope is destroyed when the promised bank job is given to someone else. More desperate than ever, and with no money to move again, Pop leaves the kids to survive on their own while he finds work. Rachel and her siblings must work together, plant a garden, fish in the stream, and raise chicks and a goat. It's scary on their own, yet somehow they manage. But then the rent comes due and the food runs low...
Patricia Reilly Giff brings this tragic historical time period to vivid light. Some readers will feel a connection with Rachel since so many people are out of work right now. They may relate to Rachel having to do with less, becoming resourceful, and worrying about paying the rent. Others will relate to Rachel's problems in getting along with her younger sister. Somehow they must work through their differences in order to survive, but it isn't easy and is very frustrating. Giff also delves into other serious topics, such as guilt, desperation, reaching for new dreams, and forcing oneself to extend beyond the norm for more potential.
R MY NAME IS RACHEL is a sweet and charming story, filled with hope and strength.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman