Book Review – The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly

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First, I feel I should preface this by saying I know Gerard and his wife Chrissy through Bless, the missional charity they run serving churches across Europe. My links with Bless date back almost ten years now, I love the work that they do and feel privileged to have been involved with it. I’m not saying this to name-drop (I know an author!) but so you understand that my review is not unbiased! 😉

I have read most of Gerard’s non-fiction works and greatly enjoyed them (especially Stretch, Stretch was brilliant), so I was really excited when I heard he had written a novel, promptly pre-ordered it, waited impatiently for it to be delivered, and then waited a year and a half to actually read it… such is the state of my to-read list, and for that I can only apologise.

It was definitely worth the wait though! Gerard is a gifted communicator – whether in sermons, blogs, poetry, tweets – and his style translated well into fiction.

The story follows Colom, a teenage boy who has recently developed behavioural problems, and his mother Fiona as she tries to help him. Her husband, David, is a pastor and reluctant to seek help from outside the church, and their home has become a battleground. Fiona seeks the help of Miriam, and old friend, former nun and therapist, who gives Fiona and Colom refuge as they try to work through his problems.

The descriptions were almost tangible, the characters mostly well-rounded, although there were a few gaps in the backstories and I wanted to see more of David and his point of view. The story didn’t develop the way I expected it to, which is usually a good thing (!) and the novel as a whole was really emotionally engaging as the revelations about the family’s past came to light and the relationships shifted and deepened. I liked the continuing motif of the weather and how it paralleled and even prophesied the characters’ emotional states. I also enjoyed the sections of first person narrative, from an unknown narrator who wasn’t revealed until nearly the end – the way these were written they could have been attributed to several characters, and different ones at different points.

My only slight disappointed was the fault of my expectations. After the first couple of chapters I was expecting this to be a book about how a church community reacts and deals with mental illness and the failings of its leaders – it didn’t go that direction, and was a more personal story because of that. The novel was great as it was, and did in some ways deal with the issues – particularly of how to help someone suffering from mental illness – but for me that church community aspect was lacking. I guess I wanted a couple of extra chapters of epilogue to cover the family reunion and the aftermath for their relationships and David’s pastoral ministry.

I still think the way this novel deals with the issue of mental illness is really timely for the church, as it has been a taboo subject for so long. The novel provides an insight for those working with young people, and a challenge for parents who are involved in church leadership on balancing their families and their ministry.

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Do Not Mess With The Dress – a short story

Write about a time you were in trouble with your parents, a school principal or teacher, or the law, but write it from the point of view of the person in authority.*

This is meant to be a quality establishment, for the cream of society. The best, the richest, the most fashionable – people of taste, discernment, and judgement.

Not any more. Now it’s a tourist attraction for the riffraff. Day trippers from The North, or, worse, kids on school trips to the ‘Big City’ – let out of their classrooms for “enriching activities” or some such nonsense.

I should be able to take pride in my work. I help the most glamorous of brides to find the perfect gown for the most important day of their lives, evoking jealousy in the hearts of all who behold them. Only the elite can afford these dresses, so, in my view, only the elite should be allowed to look at them.

Instead, I have to put up with a bunch of silly kids cooing over my dresses, dresses they (or their parents) coulee never in a million years afford, pawing at them with their sticky hands. Disgusting.

So I decided to scare a few today. They were taking photos – the cheek of it! So I told them I would be calling the police – after all, for all I knew they were trying to steal our designs (and who wouldn’t want to steal them?!)

Well, they looked suitably chastised, and I suppose they didn’t really mean any harm, so, begrudgingly, I let them go.

 

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When I was 14 I thought I was going to be arrested for taking a photo of a wedding dress in a famous London department store. This is from the store assistant’s perspective. This was written as part of my lent creative writing challenge.

 

*This writing prompt is from 642 Tiny Things to Write About (2014) by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto

Taking up, not giving up…

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, as we wait and prepare for Easter. Traditionally, it is a season of repentence, when Christians give up luxuries and distractions to focus on God and recommit their lives to him.

I love this season, and I have given things up in the past (one year I gave up tea and chocolate – my friends will tell you, it was not pretty). I haven’t observed lent for a couple of years (mainly as I’ve been on a diet for the last three), but this year I felt I wanted to mark it somehow. But how?

Then a friend gave me the book “642 tiny things to write about” and it gave me idea.

You see, one of my life goals is to be a published writer, and if you read this blog regularly you may remember that one of my five year goals is to complete the first draft of a novel. You may also remember that this has been on the back burner while I’m studying for my masters.

I have to do a lot of writing for my masters, and I love it, but it is all so serious! I miss creative writing.

I may not have time right now to focus on novel drafting, but I realised last week at a “meet the author” event that I should still be practising imaginative writing.

So for lent, I plan to pick at random one of the 642 tiny things and write. Each one should only take up one page of an A5 notebook. I just finished today’s, and it was so much fun!

If it goes well, I will stick with it after lent. If any of them are any good, I may even type them up and post them on here. 🙂

 

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