The Boy Who Loved Rain
By Gerard Kelly
Lion Fiction, 2015
Colom had the perfect childhood, the much-loved only child of a church pastor. Yet he wakes screaming from dreams in which his sister is drowning and he can’t save her.
Fiona turns to her husband, desperate to help their son. But David will not acknowledge that help is needed—and certainly not help from beyond the church. Then they find the suicide pledge.
Fiona, in panic, takes Colom and flees… but when will she acknowledge that the unnamed demons Colom faces might be of her and David’s own creation?
This beautifully written and searching novel by poet Gerard Kelly explores the toxicity of secrets, the nature of healing, and the ever-present power of rain.
The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly is an exquisite novel, atmospheric and emotive, a story that I will eventually take great pleasure in reading again. While I have discovered many outstanding reads in Christian fiction - and occasional rare gems, even - I often bemoan the fact that literary-style writing isn't often found in this genre. And "literary" doesn't mean slow moving and rather boring, as some might think. Instead, this type of fiction tends to focus on complex issues, character depth, and the beauty of the writing itself, which perfectly describes The Boy Who Loved Rain.
The prose is simply beautiful - lyrical, elegant, layered, even poetic at times. With themes of child abuse and suicide, the subject matter might seem complex and heavy, but in the hands of an author who cares about his topic, readers will experience hope and joy. The pace is somewhat slower at first, but I felt like an essential foundation was carefully being laid, one precious stone at a time. Everything picks up about one-third of the way in, and what was already an enjoyable read becomes a thoroughly engrossing one as secrets and motivations are slowly exposed.
Fourteen year old Colom experiences nightmares and violent mood swings, going between an anger and indifference that even he doesn't understand. The thoughts of his mother, Fiona, reflect both her frustration and the beauty of Gerard's writing: "How could their bright, smiling son have become this passive-aggressive teen who slalomed daily between rage and indifference? . . . And then there were the constant eruptions, anger blowing in like a storm and staying as an unwelcome lodger, a fourth member of the family."
I loved how each chapter begins with a foreshadowing fact or literary quote about rain - fascinating to read along the way, but with a meaningful twist that only becomes obvious toward the end.
Portivy area, France
Sections of this story take place in London and Amsterdam, but the main setting is the quaint harbor town of Portivy and the Côte Sauvage area on the wild coast of the French-Atlantic peninsula. This is another instance where setting practically becomes a main character, for Gerard is gifted at taking what is already an awe-inspiring part of God's creation and describing it in vivid ways that add much richness and completely held my attention.
As to the spiritual element, this story doesn't feature the normal evangelical point of view that is often found in Christian fiction. Fiona's husband, David, pastors a large Anglican church in London - and Miriam, a wonderful woman who reached out to help Collom, had previously been a nun. But The Boy Who Loved Rain is spiritually moving, as Fiona and other characters are drawn closer to the Lord, and there are some touching prayer scenes, reminiscent of the spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer.
Secrets are at the very heart of this story - unthinkable secrets thought best to remain hidden in order to protect a loved one, but needing to be exposed so that healing can begin. What a beautiful word picture Fiona's thoughts paint . . .
She imagined the sea itself laid bare; its every rock and secret channel uncovered. Formations of stone and sand submerged for centuries, caressed by the ocean's currents, hidden from view by a dark weight of water: brought now to the light, laid open for all to see. A single fork of lightning; a wind like the very breath of God. Secret things, exposed at last.
The Boy Who Loved Rain is one of the best stories I've ever read. Highly recommended to everyone who enjoys a multilayered, emotionally nuanced drama with the promise of hope.
Gerard Kelly is a well-known speaker and author of over fourteen books. He and his wife live and work in France and co-founded the Blessed Network, a movement of young leaders committed to God’s mission on mainland Europe. Formerly Pastor of Crossroads International Church in Amsterdam, Gerard currently lives in Normandy, France, where he and Chrissie are developing a centre for missional formation.
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Thank you to Kregel for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.