Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > Rain

Rain by Leigh K. Cunningham
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That Rain is set in rural Australia was the main reason I accepted this novel for review from expat author Leigh Cunningham. Sisters Helen and Grace are heiresses to their fathers successful small town sawmill business. While Helen enjoys working with her father, Grace, lively and beautiful, wants more than their country town can offer her and escapes to Sydney to pursue her own success, leaving behind her ambitious boyfriend. Spurned, Michael Baden decides to turn his attention to the plainer Helen but their marriage triggers a chain of misfortune, hardship and grief that echoes through their lifetime.

A saga of generational tragedy, Cunningham chronicles the bleak fate of the Baden family in Rain. It is a stark and discouraging tale at the cycle of family dysfunction as Michael Baden revisits his own childhood damage on his vulnerable wife and children. I found Rain difficult to read at times because the Baden family members suffer so relentlessly from setbacks both of their own making and simply by the vagaries of fate. This is an emotionally charged story that explores many confronting topics including the curse of alcohol and drug addiction, emotional neglect, rape and physical abuse.
The characters evoke both sympathy and dismay as they struggle with the burdens of their heritage. Rain illustrates the inexorable slide of Michael and Helen into a mire of despair causing the disintegration of their good intentions. Despite glimmers of hope and triumph neither can hold onto their successes. Michael undoubtedly triggers and supports the family’s failures, his drinking, neglect and general poor behaviour, a legacy that his children are unable to escape. Helen is slowly defeated by her circumstance, her honest efforts to improve her life and that of her children eventually waning in the face of repeated setbacks. The children themselves become victims, largely ill-equipped to break away from their background. It is desperately sad to witness Michael and Helen’s children suffer, and sadder still to see those who may break the cycle defeated by external forces they cannot control.

The story progresses in a cohesive manner, spanning as it does four decades. While Rain is an almost brutally tragic tale it is honest and thought provoking. Cunningham obviously has a flair for the dramatic and at times, particularly to begin with, the language is excessively florid but it doesn’t dilute the heart-wrenching emotion behind the words. I would have liked a little more shading as the tragedy is almost unrelieved even at the conclusion and while I was compelled to keep reading it was not easy to be exposed to such sustained misery even though the lessons it imparts are important.

An emotionally insightful novel, Rain was the winner of the Literary Fiction category at the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards, and a silver medalist at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) in the Regional Fiction: Australia/New Zealand category.
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Reading Progress

April 25, 2011 – Shelved
October 18, 2011 – Started Reading
October 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

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