“Young Tessa is a diminutive girl, far too small for farm work and the object of ridicule by both her own family and the other children in their isolated Midwestern community. Her father seems to believe in nothing beyond his crops, certainly not education for his misfit daughter. When a mysterious, entrancing librarian comes to town, full of fabulous stories, earthy wisdom and potions for the lovelorn, she takes Tessa under her wing, teaching her to read and to believe in herself—and a whole new magical world of possibilities opens up. But even as she blooms, Tessa’s father begins sexually abusing her. And her mentor carries a dark secret of her own that finally causes her to drown herself. Tessa runs off, following Mary’s footsteps, to join the circus as a trapeze artist, where she marries a loving man and finds a fulfilling life for herself amidst her new circus family. But she remains haunted by her past. And when a stranger from one of Mary’s fabulist tales shows up, Tessa risks everything to follow him to Rain Village, where she might finally discover her mentor’s tragic secret.
A brilliantly evocative debut set in the early part of the 20th century, steeped in emotional turbulence and down-to-earth wisdom, where a young woman must reconcile the inner traumas from her past and learn to live in the present in order to avoid becoming prisoner to her future. Rain Village casts a fabulous spell, pulling us into a world of mystery and possibility where love, friendship and loyalty might either destroy or set one free.”
Thoughts: There is a hazy quality to Rain Village that disguises the harsher aspects of Tessa’s world. Everything from her familial relationships to her time at the circus is impressionistic. Readers get the idea of what happens without having to deal with exacting details. It is very much a coping mechanism for Tessa that spills over into the rest of the novel, one that causes the novel to be more picturesque than it really should be given everything that happens to her over the course of her childhood. Still, the dream-like quality of the narrative works well given the larger-than-life personality of Mary and the fantastic aspects of the circus. There is poetry to the prose that beautifies the imagery and events, making this coming-of-age story even more special.
Tessa is an amazing girl. While the psychological damage done to her by the verbal and physical abuse heaped on her by her family is great indeed and an obvious aspect of her character, she does not understand what it means to give in to despair. She risks her body and her life not only to escape the pain of her childhood but also to prove to herself that she is more than her outward appearance. It is both admirable and painful to watch her tear herself to pieces, literally and figuratively, in order to heal.
The psychology behind Rain Village is intriguing. Not only does Tessa harbor scars from her past, Mary does as well. The mystery behind Mary’s scars is what fuels Tessa and yet prevents her from moving on with her life. In many ways, Mary’s presence in her life is just as damaging to Tessa’s psyche as her father’s physical and mother’s verbal abuse for the simple fact that Tessa cannot let Mary rest in peace. She cannot move forward with her life as a wife and star performer because she is still stuck in the past with Mary – the one person who is most responsible for her rescue. It is an unexpected twist in what appears to be a fairly straightforward story.
Rain Village at its heart is a very simple story about a girl who overcomes adversity through her own tenacity and the guidance of an amazing and eclectic woman. Underneath its surface though lies a morass of psychological and spiritual complications that drive Tessa’s determination and yet cause her growth to halt. It is fascinating take on the nature versus nurture debate of child-rearing, but most importantly, it is a beautiful story about the power of love.