Admitting that you can’t fix it – “Father of the Rain” by Lily King

July 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm 5 comments

Cover of "Father of the Rain: A Novel"

Cover of Father of the Rain: A Novel

“Father of the Rain” by Lily King, Published in 2010

This book is engrossing.  I could not put it down and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it.

When Daley is eleven her mother tells her that they are secretly packing up and leaving her father.  What becomes immediately clear is that Daley’s father, Gardiner, survives on a daily diet of seven martinis and a steak with a heavy dose of A-1 sauce.  Though this is the only life Daley has ever known her mother can no longer take Gardiner’s daily alcoholic rages, which end in cruel remarks, racist commentary, and abusive behavior.

Daley spends the summer with her mother and grandparents.  They return home – her mother has rented an apartment and Daley decides to bike home to see her father.  When she arrives another family is swimming in her pool and very quickly Daley realizes that her father has replaced them, even her room has been given to another little girl.  Gardiner very quickly remarries and his drinking gets worse.  For the rest of her childhood Daley lives with her mother during the week and stays with her father and his new family on weekends.   Her father’s house is volatile.  Gardiner and his new wife are either drunk and fighting or drunk and inappropriately boisterous.  Meanwhile all the children in the household just try to please the parents to avoid their wrath or their cruel remarks.  It all makes your skin crawl.

When Daley is done with college, she seems to have her life together. She is on her way to a professorship at Berkley, has a great network of friends and a boyfriend who she adores.  But her brother calls and tells her that their stepmom has left Gardiner and asks that Daley come home immediately.  Determined only to stay a couple of days, Daley gets to her father’s house to find him worse then ever.  He needs her and she is sure only she can help him. So she gives up everything and stays. She tries to get him sober and tries to fix their broken relationship.

Everything in you is screaming at Daley at this point in the book -“get in your car and leave now!” But she doesn’t listen to anyone, not her boyfriend or her friends or even her brother.  Her life becomes a vigilante watch of her father’s sobriety including taking him to daily AA meetings and waiting to take him back home. It is an unhealthy attempt to help her father heal while at the sometime competing for his love.  It is just you (the reader) and Daley slowly suffocating in her father’s house.  And you know it is just a matter of time before everything Daley has given up means nothing and Gardiner reaches for a martini.

Daley is weak and only wants her father’s approval but you can’t help wanting her to succeed.  She is lovable. Gardiner can be a mean drunk but King has given him other attributes – he can be fun and engaging too.  That is the problem, his daughter can’t hate him.  And while as a reader you do get frustrated with Daley, you do understand it – Gardiner is her dad and she wants him to love her, be proud of her, she wants him sober.   But of course none of that matters because it is not what Gardiner wants.

King has done something impressive here.  Either she is Daley and had a father like Gardiner or she is brilliantly insightful.  She gets that relationship between a daughter longing for her father’s and a father who just can’t be what his daughter wants and she writes it perfectly.  The novel’s painful honesty is raw and it is real.  Our families are ours, whether we like it or not.  And it can be one of the hardest lessons in life to realize that sometimes you just can’t fix the people you love.  And if you hold onto them you can just end up drowning with them.  Knowing when to let them go and walk away, that can be heartbreaking.  But sometimes it is all you can do – walk away and just hope.

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Entry filed under: July 2013 reads. Tags: , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. vgfoster  |  July 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Nice review. Makes me want to read it…just my kind of story. Real life dysfunctional relationships where you root or the underdog and pray they get out alive.

    Reply
    • 2. Emily C  |  July 22, 2013 at 9:13 am

      The nice thing about this book (without giving anything away) is that you are not punished for caring about Daley – so that makes it a worthwhile read.

      Reply
      • 3. vgfoster  |  July 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

        Nice. I downloaded it last night 🙂 Do you ever review books from indie authors? I self-published a memoir in April. I’ve got 16 reviews, mostly from strangers (15 5Star, 1 4Star). It’s called “More Than Everything” by Vanessa G. Foster. There’s a link on my blog. I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks in advance.

  • 4. Emily C  |  July 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I will certainly read it. Thanks for letting me know!

    Reply
  • […] Euphoria by Lily King:  I love this writer. I think she is brilliant and Father of the Rain is one of the best fiction books about alcoholism I have ever read.  Luckily, […]

    Reply

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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