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Book Review: When the Rain Ends

June 22, 2023

This Youtuber that I follow, Jenn Im, mentioned in one of her videos that she'll write a book "report" each time she finishes a book, kind of like how we used to have to do at school except completely self-willed now and free to write about whatever we want. After reading back on a few book recaps I had written during the pandemic in my private journal, I was inspired to have a go at this again, this time on my blog.

I just finished When the Rain Ends, by Mary Ellen Taylor. I picked up this book a bit randomly after finishing the second book in the mind-bending Three Body Problem trilogy and needing something lighter to take a break with before starting the third one. This book popped up on my Amazon account as a free Kindle download for Prime membeers, so here we are. I guess I'll start with the fact that the premise of the book is actually quite sad and tragic, but it is written in a light-hearted and straightforward way that allowed me to breeze through it quickly. The story is about a single mom Dani and her twelve-year-old daughter Bella, who are grief-stricken by the sudden death of Bella's father/Dani's ex-husband. To compound this, Dani is also suffering from a vision disorder that's making her slowly lose her vision. Desparate to start over, Dani moves them out of their long-time home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina to an inland town on the other side of the water. There's not a whole lot of plot as the book is mainly focused on the characters' thoughts and interactions, their inner battles, and how they slowly come to terms with their grief and sadness. The chapters toggle (following what seems to be a very popular pattern in novels these days) between the perspective of Dani, Bella, and Jackson, Dani's house contractor and love interest.

As for the characters, Dani and Bella are both described as strong, independent, and not inclined to show emotions or ask for help, and a continuous theme throughout the book is Bella's inability to openly talk about her feelings after losing her dad, as well as Dani's inability to talk about her mother, who passed away when she was little, and her avoiding telling Jackson (and at first, Bella) about her vision loss. Dani always puts on a big smile and nice clothes to make her seem put-together, when she is actually broken on the inside. Eventually, with the help of Jackson, Bella, and Juniper, her kind-hearted real estate agent who organizes a grief camp for kids, she begins to learn to open up and break down the walls that she'd built around herself since she was little. I'm lucky in that I've never suffered a loss as bad as they had, so although I sympathized with the characters, I didn't find their situation to be all that relatable to my own life. Also, although the book portrays Dani's tendency to cover up her feelings with a dazzling outside appearance as a negative trait, I actually found Dani's behavior interesting and almost inspiring. I feel like I'm the exact opposite of Dani - I have trouble keeping on a smile and continuing to plow through the day when something goes wrong, and usually my appearance is the first thing I'll forego when I'm under stress. Seeing how strong Dani tries to be for Bella's sake, I feel almost a bit guilty for not being more positive and cheerful, when my problems are nowhere as bad as hers.

Something funny is that the book takes place in June of 2023, so it was literally, in the "present". The second to last chapter, which takes place on June 19, even alludes to Father's Day, which occurred the day before on the 18th. In addition, the setting of the book intrigued me a bit, as I'm not that familiar with the geography of North Carolina and the Outer Banks. I had a bit of trouble envisioning what it all looked like. After browsing around a bit on Google Maps, I got a somewhat better picture - the Outer Banks is essentially a thin strip of land on the far east side of the state, separated from the inland portion of the state by a small body (or rather, bodies) of water, called a "sound". The book specifically takes place on the inland side of the Currituck Sound, where Dani and Bella move to at the beginning of the story. The book portrays (or rather, the characters portray) the Outer Banks as being fun, beachy, and exciting, and the inland as boring. I'm curious if there really is such a big divide between the two areas, or if it's played up in the book as a result of the characters', especially Bella's, reluctance to move away from their familiar home in the Outer Banks.

All in all, I thought the book was a good read with some memorable themes on family and friends, mother-daughter relationships, and picking yourself after losing a loved one. It shows that there are kind-hearted people out there, and that if you open yourself up now and then, you never know who/what might be waiting for you.