cover image Rain: A Poignant Story of Love, Loss, and the Vulnerability and Resiliency of Children

Rain: A Poignant Story of Love, Loss, and the Vulnerability and Resiliency of Children

Kirsty Gunn, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $15 (95p) ISBN 978-0-87113-592-6

New Zealand-born Gunn's tone is so sure and her storytelling so seductive in this haunting first novel told in the first-person voice of 13-year-old Janey Phelon that we are coerced into being spectators at a sacrifice. Janey and her younger brother, Jim Little, are the children of alcoholic parents in England. Janey serves as a surrogate mother to Jim, since their mother has become too concerned with cocktails to be able to do much nurturing; she tries to protect the frail boy, who seems to suffer more than she from the unparented life they lead amidst the clinking of glasses and the tinkling of late-night drunken laughter. Yearning to escape the hell their parents have created of their summer house, the children wander the lakes and rivers playing at ``Lost Boys.'' ``It will always be only my brother I'll care for,'' Janey promises herself. Only a child herself, however, Janey is unable to protect Jim from the dangers that lurk in the world beyond their fantasies. Nor can she protect herself from her own awakened adolescent sexuality. In lean yet lyrical prose, Gunn captures the voice and experience of childhood, the charismatic alcoholism of the kids' mother and the sad resignation of their father, who carries a bottle and a bowl of lemons wherever he goes. Sensuous water images and descriptions of the lake lend admirable cohesion to a novella that is most harrowing at precisely those moments when its prose is most dispassionate. 20,000 first printing; first serial to Grand Street; author tour. (Apr.)