Friday, December 16, 2011
REVIEW: The Value Of Rain by Brandon Shire
Gay, straight, or in between, human stories don't get much more powerful than in Brandon Shire's The Value Of Rain.
At it's heart, this is the tale of a young teenager (Charles) who is catapulted from the arms of his first love into the restraints of a mental hospital. Over the next ten years he is mentally, physically, and psychologically abused, all in an effort to cure him of his gayness - and all at his own mother's behest. While he manages to hold onto his identity, the experience changes him, transforming an innocent boy in search of love into a scarred young man in search of revenge.
This is a book that's, at times, both sad and angry, literally haunted by the dreary sound and images of falling rain. It's not a difficult story, but it is a challenging one, told in a deliberately haphazard fashion. The story jumps around through Charles' life, contrasting past and present, giving meaning to one, while justifying the other. What struck me most about the book was how beautifully Brandon writes, especially when writing about the cruelties which Charles encounters. It's very disconcerting to both admire and despise the same passages, drawn in by the narrative, only to recoil from the subject matter.
Like I said, this is a story that's sad and angry, and full of a lot of pain . . . but that pain, ultimately, leads to a catharsis. Charles evolves as much over the course of the story as he did during the duration of his imprisonment, and even if he can never reclaim his innocence, he can make peace with his situation. As for the ending, it's been a few days since I've read it, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The human part of me rejects it, demanding a very different sense of satisfaction, but the reader in me admires it, appreciating just how Brandon brought everything together.
A powerfully moving read, it also comes with a note of caution for anybody who has ever felt like an outsider, who has ever been shunned or made to feel ashamed - this is a book that will make you think, feel, and sympathize, whether you want to or not.