Most of the book's events take place during a summer in the 1930s in Esau Valley, Wisconsin, where Garnet lives on her family's farm. The valley contains a river, marshland, and woods. Local farmers raise com and oats, as well as cattle, pigs, and chickens. Some of the action takes place in New Conniston, a small town that, for a country girl like Garnet, glitters "like Bagdad and Zanzibar and Constantinople." New Conniston has a dime store, furniture stores, restaurants, and movie theaters. For Garnet, it is a place full of Interesting people, city luxuries, and prospects for adventure. New Conniston is also the location of the Southwestern Wisconsin Fair, held in early September. Complete with carnival sideshows and rides, the fair offers new sights and sounds.

At the beginning of Thimble Summer, southwestern Wisconsin is in the middle of a terrible drought. The 1930s brought hard economic times to America with the Great Depression, a problem that was compounded when much of the Midwest suffered from a disastrous drought that dried up farm crops. The soil, without plants to hold it together with their roots, blew away in great clouds of dust. In Enright's novel, the lack of rain leaves Garnet's father's crops withering, and for a while he stays up late every night worrying about paying his bills. Garnet and Jay sympathize with their father, and Jay vows never to be a farmer. Rain brings relief early in the novel, and with it comes the freedom for...

(The entire section is 254 words.)