Summary and book reviews of Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon

Rain Village

By Carolyn Turgeon

Rain Village
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2006,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Chapter One

“That tramp! Black-haired Jezebel!”

My mother’s voice screeched into the house, from the yard. Up in my room, I thought a storm had come until I saw the bare windowpane, the butter-colored sun streaming in.

I ran down the wooden steps and out the front door, peered through the railings on the front porch. My father was out by the hedges again, clipping as if some devil had possessed him, sweat streaming down his face and the shears sprouting from his giant body like antlers. For two days now all we’d heard were the sounds of metal slicing against metal, twigs being snapped through and dropping to the ground. The crops in the field were going to ruin, but my father didn’t care. Our front yard was already adorned with an elephant, a lion, and a peacock with a spray of leaves fanning behind it. The hedge he was attacking now was fourth in the line that hemmed in our yard, blocking it from the country road that stretched all ...

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About the Book
Influenced in part by Carolyn Turgeon’s background in comparative literature, Rain Village went through many versions and revisions in the writing. It started with a short story she wrote in college based on the story of the three rings, from The Decameron. It was set in the Pacific Northwest, in an imaginary town named Rain Village. The novel however is primarily set in two other locations, each of which stands out in rich contrast against the other two: the isolated town of Oakley, Kansas – dry, hot, and dusty—where the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Tessa Riley, grows up; and the lush and fragrant outskirts of Mexico City, winter quarters of the Velasquez Circus and ancestral home of the Ramirez ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

As a first novel, Rain Village is worthy of note and bodes well for Turgeon in the future. However, it is not without its flaws; the initially invigorating plot seems to peter out into magical realism towards the end which, in the context of a storyline that up until that point had been based more or less in reality, seemed to be an odd direction to veer off into so firmly.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (443 words).

Media Reviews
Curled Up with a Good Book

Weaving together the inscrutable forces of memory, spirit, desire and regret and imbedding her narrative with a sense of the dream-like, Turgeon has written an exquisite, quite moving account of one girl’s search through history in an effort to fill the inscrutable holes that nothing else can reach.

Booklist - Carolyn Kubisz

Turgeon's quirky first novel explores the power of secrets and how happiness is found in searching for truth.

Publishers Weekly

Turgeon, in her debut, turns in a credible Francesca Lia Block-style fable, but ...the conclusion is abrupt.

Library Journal

Delicate, evocative prose with nods to magical realism and strongly wrought characters meets with cliches of the circus setting and an anticlimactic ending... but an author to watch.

Author Blurb Keri Holmes, The Kaleidoscope Bookstore
Imagine a world where every fantastic story your best friend told you turns out to be true. Imagine knowing you’re a freak, but discovering later that you’re a star. Imagine a painful childhood, a mentor who shows you how to dream, and equips you to escape. Imagine running away to join the circus, and finding there the family you’ve longed for. Imagine these things, and you’ve imagined the world of Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon. A fairy tale in the best sense of that word, Rain Village is as magical as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, but grounded in this world. Mary gives Tessa a life, but cannot save her own in this lyrical story about knowing yourself and finding your place in the world.

Reader Reviews
Louise J

Magical Masterpiece!
You won’t believe what happens to little Tessa from Oakley, Kansas once she finds the circus. This story is simply a masterpiece.

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Beyond the Book

Carolyn Turgeon was born in Michigan grew up in Illinois, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  She studied English and Italian literature at Penn State and received a Master's in Comparative Literature from UCLA. Rain Village is her first novel. She works for a non-profit in New York and lives in Queens.

Carolyn Turgeon discusses Rain Village
A fascinating site about the circus past and present
Interested in learning the flying trapeze?!

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