Summary and book reviews of Father of the Rain by Lily King

Father of the Rain

A Novel

By Lily King

Father of the Rain
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2010,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: May 2011,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

In her most ambitious novel to date, critically acclaimed author Lily King sets her sharply insightful family drama in an upper-middle-class East Coast suburb where she traces a complex and volatile father-daughter relationship from the 1970s to the present day.

When eleven-year-old Daley Amory’s mother leaves her father, Daley is thrust into a chaotic adult world of competition, indulgence, and manipulation. Unable to place her allegiance, she gently toes the thickening line between her parents’ incompatible worlds: the increasingly liberal, socially committed realm of her mother, and the conservative, liquor-soaked life of her father. But without her mother there to keep him in line, Daley’s father’s basest impulses and quick rage are unleashed, and Daley finds herself having to choose her own survival over the father she still deeply loves.

As she grows into adulthood, Daley retreats from the New England country- club culture that nourished her father’s fears and addictions, and attempts to live outside of his influence. Until he hits rock bottom. Faced with the chance to free her father from sixty years worth of dependency, Daley must decide whether repairing their badly broken relationship is worth the risk of losing not only her professional dreams, but the love of her life, Jonathan, who represents so much of what Daley’s father claims to hate, and who has given her so much of what he could never provide.

A provocative and masterfully told story of one woman’s life-long, primal loyalty to her father, Father of the Rain is a spellbinding journey into the emotional complexities, mercurial contours, and magnetic pull of families.

1

My father is singing.

High above Cayuga’s waters, there’s an awful smell.
Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters, some say it’s Cornell.

He always sings in the car. He has a low voice scraped out by cigarettes and all the yelling he does. His big pointy Adam’s apple bobs up and down, turning the tanned skin white wherever it moves.

He reaches over to the puppy in my lap. “You’s a good little rascal. Yes you is,” he says in his dog voice, a happy, hopeful voice he doesn’t use much on people.

The puppy was a surprise for my eleventh birthday, which was yesterday. I chose the ugliest one in the shop. My father and the owner tried to tempt me with the full-breed Newfoundlands, scooping up the silky black sacks of fur and pressing their big heavy heads against my cheek. But I held fast. A dog like that would make leaving even harder. I pushed them away and pointed to the twenty-five dollar wirehaired mutt that had been in the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What are the defining traits of Father of the Rain? Is it a courageous book? Why? Francine Prose, in Reading Like a Writer talks about being “heartened by all the brave and original works that have been written without the slightest regard for how strange or risky they were, or for what the author’s mother might have thought when she read them.” Talk about King’s daring, her bone honesty in this book.

  2. When she is away, Daley misses her mother, her spirit and values. Daley calls her the ballast in her life. Does she actually miss her father when she is absent from him? If so, why? It takes Gardiner two weeks to call her when her mother has decamped with her to New Hampshire. Is that call just legal strategy? How does ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Father of the Rain offers a portrait of an alcoholic parent from the viewpoint of his daughter, Daley. The story begins when Daley is 11, right before her parents' divorce, and follows her until her father's death 25 years later. Both a warning and a tribute to the importance of the relationship between a father and daughter, this novel is a heart-wrenching depiction of the painful influence of this particular parent on a vulnerable child under his care.   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

Full Review Members Only (830 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Richard Russo
Lily King's Father of the Rain is one of the most richly satisfying and haunting novels I've read in a long time.

Author Blurb Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
In Father of The Rain Lily King creates a brilliant portrait of a man who lives in the everyday world but follows almost none of the everyday rules. The result for his family is excruciating and for the reader a wonderfully intense and absorbing novel that reminds us of just how complicated love can be.

Author Blurb Cammie McGovern, author of Eye Contact and Neighborhood Watch
One of King's extraordinary feats in Father of the Rain is her capacity to travel unflinchingly into the darkest recesses of family bonds, but do it with such unerring specificity that the effect is both comic and utterly heartbreaking. Like The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, this book beautifully depicts the emotional tightrope a child must walk with a charismatic, intelligent, and emotionally crippled parent. King also has a suspense writer's gift to make the ways her characters love and betray each other a complete, up-late-into-the-night page-turner with an ending that simply took my breath away.

Author Blurb Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
'We think back through our mothers if we are women,' wrote Virginia Woolf, but Lily King's powerful novel about a daughter's odyssey to find her way through the tangle of her father's heart and so find herself, claims new terrain. In King's masterful hands, Daley Amory's quest for her drunk, charming, impossible father is heart-breaking and familiar in the oldest sense of the term. I wanted to shut my eyes, and couldn't because I couldn't stop reading. When I finished, I cried for us all.

Booklist

A riveting portrait of a father so spectacularly dysfunctional that he rivals Alfred Lambert, in Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections....Readers will be thoroughly taken by King's exceptionally fluid prose and razor-sharp depiction of the East Coast country-club set.

Publishers Weekly

While Daley's perfect romance with her strapping, intelligent suitor is simplistic though sensual, King's latest is original and deftly drawn, the work of a master psychological portraitist.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Daley is so beautifully portrayed that readers will clench their fists and protectively rail against her actions, only to be taken breathtakingly by surprise .... Highly recommended.

Oprah Magazine - Karen Holt

King makes this well-worn theme seem fresh with her vividly drawn characters

Elle - Rachel ­Rosenblit

King is brilliant when writing from the eyes of a tween, all self-conscious curiosity but bright and hopeful as a starry sky.

Entertainment Weekly - Tina Jordan

There's something so raw and affecting about Daley's love for her damaged father that the book will linger in your mind long after you've finished it. Rated: A

Reader Reviews
Deborah D.

This is a 10 star book!
I judge a book by its ability to stay with me beyond the last page. I read this book several weeks ago and still ruminate. Lily King ably explores the relationship between a father and daughter during the 70's. Complicating the relationship is the...   Read More

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An Interview With Lily King

Lily KingWhen you began your new novel, Father of the Rain, what was the initial idea or image that got the story rolling?

I think it started with the puppy, a father buying his daughter a puppy that she wouldn't be able to keep because she knew, though he didn't, that she would be moving out of the house with her mother in a week. And her choice of the ugliest puppy, so that it wouldn't be even harder to leave. Once I got the puppy in the car, the rest of the first chapter came quickly: the mother with the group of city kids in the pool, the father scheming to sabotage the moment in some way, and the daughter trying to please them both at the same time, all the while carrying around this tremendous secret that her mother was about to ...

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