Review

Father of the Rain

by Lily King

It is the early 1970s, and 11-year-old Daley Amory lives a life
of privilege: country clubs, private schools, catered dinners and a
large house on the coast of Massachusetts. And now she is realizing
that her family's money and status can do nothing to heal its
wounds or keep it intact. Her mother, a progressive Democrat,
has grown tired of her conservative and bigoted father's drinking
and leaves him. Daley's older brother Garvey is away at
school, which leaves her to navigate alone the two spheres her
parents now inhabit. In Lily King's latest novel, FATHER OF THE
RAIN, readers follow Daley as she moves back and forth between her
parents and until she finally must move away for good.

Daley's mother is an open-hearted and open-minded
figure. Though she cleans out the safe where her
mother-in-law's jewels were kept and took her young daughter from
her husband without his knowledge, this shows not a meanness but a
fear of not being able to leave him. Once she is far from Gardiner
Amory, she grows emotionally and eventually marries the kind of man
her former husband hated (a Jewish liberal). But the divorce of her
parents does nothing to alleviate the tensions Daley experiences or
change the complicated relationship she has with her
father. In fact, it all gets more difficult and more
devastating for her.

Soon Gardiner is remarried, to the mother of Daley's close
friend Patrick. His new wife is a bitter alcoholic, and the
home that Daley always associated with the warmth and love of her
mother is destroyed. From verbally abusive exchanges to
inappropriate sexual antics, Gardiner and Catherine's marriage is
beyond dysfunctional. Daley does her best to placate them both
when she is with them. Despite her father's vodka-soaked
diatribes and frightening drunken ways, Daley loves him deeply and
wishes to connect with him in a real way.

When Daley leaves home for college, she tries to put the world
of her father behind her. And when her mother dies in an
accident her sophomore year, she tries, like her brother does, to
understand herself as "basically an orphan." But the pull of
her father is strong. Though she insists he has no power over
her, she finds herself returning to him, having just finished her
PhD and about to begin her career as a professor of anthropology at
Berkeley. Her plan is to meet her boyfriend, Jonathan, in
California, where he has rented them a house. But she never
makes it there. A call from her brother brings her back home where
she finds her father a wasted wreck. Catherine has left him,
and his drinking has only gotten worse the years Daley has been
away.

Torn between her anger with him and her abiding love and sense
of responsibility, she risks her job, her future with Jonathan and
her own happiness to live with her father during his period of
recovery. Back home, driving her father to and from AA
meetings, Daley also finds herself torn between the cerebral world
of higher education and the social world her father occupies with
its exclusive clubs, outdated fashions and refusal to understand
alcoholism or recognize familial abuse. When another woman
emerges to care for her father, resulting in a moment of violence,
Daley leaves him once again.

The final section of the book introduces a happy and healthy
Daley years later, but yet again her father needs her. Will
she jeopardize her marriage, the security of her children, and her
own peace of mind to try, one last time, to have a relationship
with him?

FATHER OF THE RAIN is emotionally powerful, often stingingly
sad, and richly complex. King's prose shines, and her
depiction of the fragility of an alcoholic family is
spot-on. Gardiner is charming and dangerous, appealing and
repulsive, and very real despite his over- the-top
personality. Daley is an unflinching witness to his life, and
her own struggles are compelling. But beyond the themes of
alcoholism, the heart of the story is of the complicated
relationships between fathers and daughters. FATHER OF THE RAIN is
a scary, thoughtful, provocative and engrossing novel, exploring
one of the most charged relationships in recent literature.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 16, 2011

Father of the Rain
by Lily King

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802145345
  • ISBN-13: 9780802145345