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.
This book feels very personal. We see everything from the viewpoint of Daley. She hides the true extent of her father's destructive lifestyle from her mother, but of course is angry at her mother for not protecting her. She hides all of her true thoughts and feelings in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid triggering her father's temper and harsh ridicule.
King does a great job of warning the reader of impending doom while making it clear that Daley is (sometimes willfully) ignorant of it. We see the damage her paternal relationship has done to her ability to form close relationships, while she seems not to realize how detached she is. The glimpses we get of her older brother (who is away at school when their parents break up) provide needed perspective in what could have been a too-narrow focus on Daley's viewpoint, but without robbing us of the emotional connection to the information. In King's masterful hands, I was a willing passenger on the train wreck that was Daley's childhood. I do wonder, however, if the children of alcoholics would have a difficult time reading this book.
The story is nicely book-ended by two political events the resignation of President Nixon in the nasty wake of her parents' separation, and the hopeful mood of the election of President Obama as Daley finally begins to heal, though these events do not figure significantly in the narrative.
No judgment comes from the narrator the reader is left (for the most part) to draw her own conclusions, based on the effects on Daley & her brother. The bald descriptions of horrifying childhood experiences were sometimes hard to take mostly because I was so invested in this little girl. If I wasn't a divorced parent, it might not have affected me so much but I could see the terrible choices these parents (mostly Dad) were making with no thought for this little girl's feelings. On the other hand, if I'd read this when I first got divorced, it probably would have made me feel much better about the (comparatively) minor mistakes my ex-husband and I made at that time. I think it should be required reading for divorcing parents everywhere.
This review was originally published in August 2010, and has been updated for the May 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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