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Likely Stories : Father of the Rain, by Lily King


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Lily King is the author of several novels with terrific stories, especially The Pleasing Hour, and The English Teacher.  King is the recipient of a Whiting Award.  She lives in Maine.  Her novels are stimulating and deserve my highest praise.  Father of the Rain is her third novel, which spans three decades of a volatile relationship between a frighteningly charismatic, alcoholic father and the daughter who cannot help but leave him. 


The story begins as the mother makes a serious decision: she gathers up her daughter, Dailey, and they move.  She writes, “Three days ago my mother told me she was going to go live with my grandparents in New Hampshire for the summer.  We were standing in our nightgowns in her bedroom.  My father had just left for work.  Her face was shiny from Moondrops, the lotion she put on every morning and night.  ‘I’d like you to come with me,’ she said. // ‘But what about sailing classes and art camp.’  I was signed up for all sorts of thing that began next week. // ‘You can take sailing lessons there.  They live on a lake.’ // ‘But not with Mallory and Patrick.’ // She pressed her lips together, and her eyes, which were brown and round and nothing like my father’s yellow-green slits, brimming with tears, and I said yes, I’d go with her” (6).

Two weeks later, “my father calls during dinner.  Nonnie, [the grandmother], answers and returns quickly. // ‘I’s Gardener.’  She stands in the doorway, waiting to see if my mother will take the call. // ‘I’m not sure you should,’ my grandfather says, but my mother gets up and goes to the phone, which is below the stairs in the living room.  She speaks so low we can’t hear much, but I can see her straight stiff back and the way she holds the receiver several inches from her ear” (25).

The end of summer is near, Lily writes, “‘He’s back,’ Patrick says, pointing. // My father is in his chair at the pool in his bathing trunks.  Fe’s sitting sideways to us, talking to Mrs. Tabor.  She glances over but he doesn’t.  I walk all the way across the grass to the concrete squares around the pool before he looks up.  He fakes surprise.  ‘Well, hello there!’  He fakes friendliness.  I know it’s fake because I’ve hears that voice when he talks to the neighbors he hates.  He hates Mr. Seeley for building his garage so close to our property line, and he hates the Fitzpatricks for having so many children.  He hates the old Vance sisters down the hill for feeding our dogs and Mr. Pratt across the street for playing taps at sunset.  He grumbles about them and makes fun of the way they walk or talk or laugh.  But whenever he sees one of them, at the post office or the gas station, he always says, ‘Well, hello there!’ in that same fake friendly voice” (51-52).

In Lily King's Father of the Rain, she has a drawn a dysfunctional family in the eyes of a young girl.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.