CFBA Tour – Raising Rain

Raising Rain (Moody Press) is the perfect title for Debbie Fuller Thomas’s second novel, one of the tour features of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.

I was happy to sign up for this book because Debbie is one of the authors I know personally. We first met at a Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference back in 2005, I believe. I think it was at the 2007 conference that I learned Debbie had a contract. As it turned out, Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon became a Christy Award finalist.

The Story. Raising Rain, released in September, may duplicate that accomplishment. This is a splendid story, exploring deeper themes by looking at the lives of five women who came out of America’s cultural revolution during the late 1960s and early 70s. Four of these women were young adults just starting college in one of the hotbeds of cultural change—Northern California—during the turbulent times of the Vietnam War era.

If I gave you a thumbnail sketch of the plot, you might be scratching your head thinking, where’s the story? This book might be considered “character driven,” but Debbie skillfully moves the plot forward by giving timely looks back—flashback scenes that show the reader what life was like for the four roommates and the little girl named Rain that they helped raise.

In addition, Debbie creates curiosity and suspense. What happened between protagonist Bebe and her family? Why did the roommates stay friends with the abusive Jude? What will Rain do about the greatest desire of her heart? And what will the Celebrate Life weekend produce?

Those questions and more had me turning pages late into the night—or should I say, wee hours of the morning.

Strengths. Above all else, I think Raising Rain mines one of the least understood eras, and perhaps most influential upon contemporary culture, of American history, but it does so through five characters that epitomize those most immediately affected by the societal upheaval. It’s a powerful look at the effects of the dramatic changes that took place.

The power of this book only works because Debbie Thomas created such believable characters. Their hurts, foibles, successes, fears, passions, and all come alive through the pages of Raising Rain.

Equally important, the themes of the book transcend the time. These are not Vietnam-era problems; they are human problems, women’s issues, family matters.

Weaknesses. A story about five women has an immediate pitfall—introducing the reader to all the characters without being confusing. I’ll admit, for a few chapters, I was mired in the bunker of confusion, especially as I tried to sort out the various relationships.

A second problem that niggled at me had to do with an unresolved hurt that separated one of the key characters and those she cared about. When the “reveal” came about and I understood what had caused the rift, I felt a little let down. I didn’t think the issue seemed like it would have created such significant distance.

Another interesting thing may or may not be a weakness. Much of this story is delivered through narrative rather than through scene. Here’s a sample I pulled out randomly:

They checked into the hotel and noticed that a majority of cars in the parking lot boasted USMC stickers. They found a place to eat and turned in early … Like a kid on Christmas Eve, Bebe had difficulty seeping. Not only was she excited to see Scott, but she also harbored worry about Bobby in her mind.

The effect this had on me was to distance me from the emotions of the characters. I understood, for example, that Bebe was excited and anxious, but I didn’t feel those things with her. Consequently, places that may have been tearjerker scenes didn’t affect me that way.

Is that a weakness? Well, I didn’t want to read a tearjerker, so I didn’t really mind. But as a writer, I think, Hmmm, maybe pulling a few tears out of a reader would be good. 😉

Recommendation. Here’s the strongest indication of what I thought about the book. I woke up the morning after finishing it sad that I wouldn’t be able to attend a key event the book referred to at the end. In other words, the characters felt that real, and I felt that invested in their lives.

For readers who enjoy women’s fiction, this is a must read.

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm  Comments (2)  
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