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Rainey Royal


Rainey Royal

Set in the turbulent 1970s, RAINEY ROYAL is a story about a vulnerable, tough girl beginning when she is at the tender age of 14. She grows up in Greenwich Village and must deal with the abandonment of her mother.

Rainey Royal lives with her father, Howard, in her grandmother’s old dilapidated brownstone. He is a jazz musician, a free spirit, and has his own “acolytes” who also live in the house and come and go as they please. He is more concerned about them than his own daughter. There is no parental guidance, so Rainey is left to grow up using her own devices. There is so much dysfunction in her life, including her father’s best friend, Gordy, who visits her bedroom every night to tuck her in or rub her back. Rainey fends off Gordy’s advances, but this carries on for many years. Howard allows this type of behavior, which wouldn’t fly in today’s world.

"Upon finishing [Landis's] latest, I definitely feel there is room for a sequel. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Rainey Royal."

Rainey’s “family” are her two friends: Tina, with whom she has a very close relationship, and Leah, who she torments during their younger years at school, but then takes under her wing. Tina is the only one who knows about Rainey and Gordy. However, Tina has a relationship with Howard as a teenager that she conceals from Rainey. Leah is jealous of Rainey and Tina’s friendship, and longs to be in Tina’s shoes. Author Dylan Landis does a very good job of developing these three friends’ relationship, making them quite believable as teenage girls.

Rainey comes off as a big toughie who longs for love and attention, and looks for it in all the wrong places. For such a broken and odd-behaving girl, underneath lies a beautiful, smart young lady who loves going to museums and the library. Due to the dysfunction, she steals, threatens and plays games, “but games seem to be her particular gift, games of the art.” You see, Rainey has an artistic side to her, making “tapestries” from dead people’s belongings. She uses their clothing, jewelry, photos, buttons and whatever she thinks could possibly work to make her “quilts.” When Landis describes the “tapestries,” she gives full details of the items used, so I felt that I could visualize what they looked like. 

Leah’s mother is an interior decorator, and Leah comes up with the idea that she could show Rainey’s work to her, possibly giving Rainey an opportunity to sell her artwork to her mother’s clients. Although Leah’s mother loves the artwork, Leah, jealous of Rainey’s friendship with Tina, decides not to tell Rainey. The offer could have been her big break, but it becomes Leah’s big secret.

By the end of the story, Rainey is in her 20s. She finally grows up and makes decisions on her own. She has evolved into a young woman who has found love, and has the strength to do anything. I love that about her! I also think Tina and Leah will be lifelong friends.

I decided to read this book because I, like Landis, grew up in the ’70s. At Rainey’s age of 14, when the story begins, we were vulnerable and young. We thought we knew everything and didn’t want to be told otherwise, just like Rainey. We were just trying to fit in, but Rainey, lacking the appropriate attention at home, wanted to stand out. Landis does a remarkable job of showing what it was like for such a dysfunctional girl to grow up in the ’70s --- without a mother, no less.

However, I didn’t particularly care for the choppiness of the writing, because I often felt like I had to reread sections to understand what was being said. Even in the middle of dialogue, Landis would go off on tangents that, rather than adding to the story, distracted from it.

I would like to read Landis’s debut novel, NORMAL PEOPLE DON’T LIVE LIKE THIS, as a way of comparison and to get a better idea of her writing style. Upon finishing her latest, I definitely feel there is room for a sequel. I doubt we’ve seen the last of Rainey Royal.

Reviewed by Vivian Payton on September 19, 2014

Rainey Royal
by Dylan Landis

  • Publication Date: May 19, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press
  • ISBN-10: 1616955716
  • ISBN-13: 9781616955717