The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle

My husband and I really like watching Castle, the murder mystery show. We enjoy its clever approach to crime solving, and we love its predictability. Not that we always know what’s coming, but we can tell if they’ve solved the case for sure or not depending on how far into the episode we are. If they find “the murderer” in the first 20 or 30 minutes, we know it’s not the real murderer, because they’ve got to fill the other half of the show with plot twists and complications before they can truly solve the case. So for the first half of the show we watch with this kind of banter: “Is that him? Nope, can’t be…too early.”photo-1

I had the same feeling when I read The Small Rain.

With the exception of Hemingway, this was maybe the most depressing book I’ve ever read. The main character, Katherine, only experienced happiness for about 10% of the entire book. Bad things just kept happening to her. First she was reunited and living happily with her mother…her mother died. Then she finally made a friend at school…her teachers spread lies about her and warned the other students not to get too close to her so that her friend abandoned her. Then she took comfort in a piano teacher she really looked up to…he got a job in another city and moved away. So, just like when watching Castle, I knew that when Katherine fell in love and got engaged about 5/6 of the way through, there was still too much of the book left for her happiness to last. Something bad had to happen to ruin her joy. Sure enough…well, I won’t ruin it for you.

There’s a sequel to this book called A Severed Wasp in which the characters are much older and more mature. L’Engle apparently wrote it 37 years after writing The Small Rain (which was her first novel), so I’m sure it’s got a much riper tone and quality. But I’m not sure I have the courage to read A Severed Wasp. Part of me is very curious to see how L’Engle’s approach changed and to find out what happens to Katherine, but another part of me is terrified that I’ll just find more disappointment and depression in her life, especially since she apparently lives through WWII in the interlude between books.

So I think I’ll wait to read A Severed Wasp. Maybe next time I’m feeling overly giddy I’ll look it up and see how Katherine coped with everything.

Pages: 371

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