A Dry Spell

Susie Moloney, Author Delacorte Press $23.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-31829-7
The myth of the rainmaker--the rootless wanderer with the power to make both women and farmlands blossom under his touch--is given a Stephen King-like twist in this atmospheric, vividly peopled second novel from Canadian writer Moloney (Bastion Falls). Goodlands, N.Dak., is a town in the grip of a four-year drought, which begins about the time that lonely Karen Grange comes to work for the local branch of Commercial Farm Credit. Forced to foreclose on her new neighbors and friends, desperate Karen sends for rainmaker Thompson Keatley. His arrival in Goodlands triggers the suspicions of the locals, who are crazy for explanations (literally, in the case of farmer Carl Simpson, who suspects a government plot behind the drought). It also awakens something much stronger and more malevolent--the spirit of a dead woman, which takes up residence in a local girl named Vida Whalley. Moloney balances sharply observed details of small-town life, including the tensions of failure and poverty, with understated moments of mystery and horror, creating a modern-day American Gothic full of such lingering, angry spirits as the ghost that haunts a hairpin curve called Slaughter Slide. The subtle relationship between Karen and the curse that seems to be infecting Goodlands--the body discovered in her backyard when she first came to town; the sinister parasitism of the bank she works for--lends weight and depth to the novel's climactic battle between the living and the dead. Yet at no point does the supernatural element overwhelm the story. In Moloney's capable hands, the special effects always work in support of characterization--which is the best special effect of all. $350,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB selections; film rights to Paramount and Cruise-Wagner Productions; author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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