Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon

Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 328 pages, 2006

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I read the first few pages, and had to find out what fate lay in store for a young girl forced to hang from a curtain rod by a mother who believed it would make her taller.

Synopsis: Tessa’s life doesn’t hold much promise – she’s tiny (barely four feet), which makes her useless on her family’s farm and a freak in the eyes of the community – until one day a librarian with a ethereal beauty comes to town and strikes up a conversation, changing the course of Tessa’s life forever. The librarian, Mary, is full of the knowledge and intrigue that Tessa believes can only come from her former lifestyle, that of a trapeze artist in the circus. When circumstances force Tessa to flee from her hometown, she may find that her plans to follow in her mentor’s footsteps are swept up in a life all of her own…and yet, that it’s almost impossible to leave the past behind.

Why you should read this book: Rain Village is gorgeously written, conjuring up both lush landscapes and the dazzling-but-unreal spectacle of circus life. Tessa may be tiny in stature, but her personality is almost too big for the pages, as she alternates between pulling you down into her sorrows, and lifting your spirits as easily as she seems to fly through the air. Mary, the secondary-but-crucial character, is equally well-done, as Turgeon imparts both a sense of unworldly spiritualism and a hidden, all-too-human side that has trouble coping with the sorrows that life has poured over her. Turgeon shows a great sense of balance with her debut novel, dusting a shimmer of magical realism over the hard realities of her characters’ lives, making it a pleasure to read even when times are tough. The stories that the characters spin about their lives, both in the circus and outside of it, are also a winning feature of this engrossing novel. Be sure to catch this soaring tale of love and hope.

Why you should avoid this book: While I’m not normally one to wish bad things on people, even if they are fictional, I think Tessa could have shown her strength better had there been more hardships in her life, especially in the later parts of the book. With some books, that might feel like a manipulative way to get the reader emotionally involved, but Tessa really was up to even more challenges than she faced.

Opening paragraph:

‘That tramp! That black-haired Jezebel!’

Fabulous quotes:

I took to the trapeze as if it were a part of my body I hadn’t known existed. Swinging in space, the bookshelves on either side of me, my family didn’t matter anymore. The kids in the square, the endless fields in Oakley that stretched and stretched past the horizon – none of it mattered. It was like reading Sister Carrie but better, because this time it was all me.

She looked me over. ‘You say you knew who?’
‘Mary Finn,’ I said, and then, ‘Marionetta.’ My heart pounded. ‘She told me all about this place. And you, and your brother Luis, your villa in Mexico.’
She looked at me a moment longer, then shrugged. ‘Many people knew Marionetta,’ she said. ‘Why are you bothering me about it?’ And with one more look at the air behind me, she closed the door in my face.
As disoriented as I was by her beauty, as long as I had anticipated this moment, I had not been prepared for her to reject me. I stood staring at the gold letters that spelled her name, the door that shut me off from everything, all the possibility in the world.

Also recommended: The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall; The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham; Swift as Desire by Laura Esquivel; The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies.

Also by this author: Rain Village is Turgeon’s first book.

Author’s website: carolynturgeon.com

Fun tidbit: You can also check out Turgeon’s blog here.

Would I read more by this author? Yes.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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