Mary White's Reviews > Monsoon Season

Monsoon Season by Katie O'Rourke
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May 26, 2012

really liked it

Monsoon Season is the story of Riley and Ben, two young adults who meet and fall in love. Author Katie O’Rourke handles the burgeoning relationship with deft hands, showing in moments and gestures how the two become acquainted and enamored. Here, Riley’s hand meets Ben’s amidst sparks and spasms; there, he reaches down and readjusts the blankets to cover her cold feet. Facets of their personalities emerge as we follow their movements. They spend hours playing board games and staying in, and days exploring the surrounds of Tucson, where Riley has moved from the east coast after graduating college. The terrain is foreign and new, as is the landscape of the relationship.

And yet Monsoon Season begins with Riley on a bus, en route to her childhood home and separating from Ben. From the intimacy of their fledging love, the novel’s lens widens to include a supporting cast. Donna, Riley’s roommate who has stood by as one friend after another abandons her for romantic pursuits. Laura, Riley’s childhood friend who got married young, after an unexpected pregnancy. Ben’s mother, Teresa, still dealing with the repercussions from her own marriage. And Riley’s parents, Mark and Carol, a seemingly normal middle-aged couple who may have more problems than they let on. As the young couple’s circle widens, as the past and present come together to illuminate how they have found themselves in their current state, we begin to understand the complexity of their relationship (of all relationships), and the influences they’ve absorbed. And like the cracked Arizona earth unable to withstand the torrent of a monsoon, Riley finds herself at the center of a storm, life launching an onslaught from all sides. In the end, she must either drown or dry herself off.

Monsoon Season is touching and feels honest; at times, the prose is lyrical and knowingly observant. Part coming-of-age, part love story, part family drama, it is peopled with vivid characters and tells a story that pulls at the heart and engages the mind. This is what it’s like to love someone, to make a mistake, to start over. These universalities and their nuanced delivery are the strength of Katie’s O’Rourke’s debut novel.
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