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She-Rain: A Story of Hope by Michael Cogdill
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She-Rain: A Story of Hope

by Michael Cogdill

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Frank Locke is the son of an opium addict in the 1920s in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. He's quit school to work in a cotton mill and take care of his parents' and grandparents' farms. He's bitter about his father, but he's found a good woman to love. Then some big family drama hits the fan and he discovers a world whose existence he'd never even dreamed of.

First of all, I received this from the publicist in exchange for my unbiased review. Also, I don't know Michael Cogdill, but he is one of my sort-of-local news anchors.

Now that that's out of the way, let me try to tell you how much I loved this book. Why are the five-star reviews always harder to write than the two-star reviews?

I'm a Blue Ridge mountain girl, so I'm a little predisposed to love books set at home anyway. But this was just gorgeous, both the writing and the story. It's not a book to rush through; it's a book to take your time over, savor, and wring every last bit of meaning out of. Here, this paragraph that explains both the title and very basic premise of the book will show you what I'm talking about.

"In the rise of crickets and peep frogs, Granny spread out her mountain mystic view of things again, and the whole wagon treated it as sacred for a moment. She'd often speak of how a little scrap of fog tears from a rain cloud. Floats on the waves of blue ridge as if a wisp off a bride. Granny and others called it she-rain, I suppose for its womanly drape, white as a wedding gown. Common legend, though Granny took the vision further. Said she-rain was like us all--little scraps torn off into the world, given to the wind, and meant to find a paradise. As she saw things, no human scrap of this life is made for the trash. Even the most ragged are fit to beautify somewhere. Fit for some quilting into the finery of creation."

And that's the hope. No matter your background, no matter what you've done, its never too late to redeem yourself. When one character finally redeems himself, I was truly almost in tears.

I feel like the synopsis does this book a little bit of a disservice. I was expecting a straight-up story of a love triangle. When Frank finally meets the second woman, the story took a turn that added unbelievable depth and richness. I won't say more.

One of the many layers of this novel is about Frank becoming more than just a semi-literate farm boy living a hard life. I am so glad that some of his best teachers were natives of his community. They showed him that just because you're illiterate in letters doesn't mean that you can't be literate in love and a life well-lived.

There are so many good, true messages in here that I just sat still, mulling them over for about fifteen minutes in the lobby where I finished it. That's a huge deal because I usually finish one book and immediately reach for the next. Considering that I finished the book in goosebumps, reading through a haze of tears, I obviously had a lot to think about. One of the biggest messages was about helping each other. The author shows that we should never be afraid to ask for help when we need it, and we should always be willing to accept help when it's offered. We should also be on the lookout for people that we can help. How much better would this world be if we just looked out for opportunities to help each other, no matter how small? Whether it's money, a meal, an ear to listen, or even just a hug on a hard day, everyone has something to offer. I'm left wondering if Cogdill chose his publisher on purpose because they donate a portion of their proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

The speech is written in our mountain accent, and the author did an amazing job pulling that off. Not an easy feat. It all flowed for me, but because that is truly the language of my heart, I can't say if it's hard for someone else to read.

Parts were emotionally difficult to read, but in a "story of hope," an author has to give their characters a reason to need hope. As you read through the darkness, keep in mind that there will ultimately be light.

I loved the simple faith that was a common thread throughout the book. The characters come from wildly different backgrounds, different Christian denominations, or maybe even no religion at all, but they all had an earnest faith in God. They had faith that if we have faith in each other, we'll help each other be all that we can.

I loved these characters. Sophia was a woman way, way ahead of her time. Mary L. has struggled through things I can't imagine and come out stronger and wiser on the other side. Preacher Lew is hilarious, blustery, and amazingly caring. Frank is open to all that anyone wants to show him. Granny may have been my very favorite though. Her time in the book is short, but her lessons are long and lasting. She reminds me of my own little Granny with her great big heart.

This is another book that I highly recommend. I have been on a roll with these lately, haven't I? Read this when you have the time to really think it over and let the important lessons sink in. You'll be so glad you did. Oh, and there's a giveaway for this going on through April 2, 2010 here on GoodReads. Go ahead and enter. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1920's is a hard life, even harder if your father is drug addicted and abusive and your family is quite literally dirt poor. Frank Locke Jr. hates the man for whom he is named, hates him so much that at many times he dreams of killing him. Especially the times his father, in a drug induced rage, becomes violent. It seems, if it weren't for the assistance of his grandparents, his beloved Granny and Pap, who live on a nearby farm scratching out their own living from the mountains, he and his mother would never have survived.
But he is not the only one in these mountains living a tragic life. In school as a young boy, he meets the woman who will be love of his life, Mary Lizbeth, who has her own even more difficult story to live.

As the years go on, Frank becomes a young man and, with his grandparents having died, he is the only support and sole defender of his mother. When a terrible act of violence occurs, hoping the blame will be cast on him and to protect those he loves, Frank flees from his home, leaving behind his mother and the beautiful Lizbeth. But the mountains into which he runs, while beautiful, are hard and dangerous and Frank soon finds himself in deadly danger, only to be saved by another woman, the mysterious Sophia. Brilliant and lovely, she lives in a world of books and music and education, but hidden from the world. As she starts to share this with Frank, he finds himself in the midst of a world he never really knew existed. He also finds himself in the middle of a mystery that is decades old and an injustice that goes back far longer.
Young Frank is torn between two worlds, between two women it might seem at first, but in realty, hr is part of something that will tie these people together for their entire lives.

She-Rains is a wonderful story, almost a magical story, and this book paints some wonderful characters in a wild and fantastic setting of the mountains of North Carolina. That's the good news.
But it is also a book that I found painfully slow to read.
The story is told by Frank, looking back on his life and written in the dialect of a mountain boy from the South. That I could have adjusted to. But the rest of the prose, beyond the dialogue, is also written in a very distinctive style. Much of it is very beautiful, poetic even, as you can see from this small quote about how his grandmother described these she-rains for which the book is named...

"In the rise of crickets and peep frogs, Granny spread out her mountain mystic view of things again, and the whole wagon treated it as sacred for a moment. She'd often speak of how a scrap of fog tears from a rain cloud. Floats on the waves of blur ridge as if a wisp off a bride. Granny and others call it she-rains, I suppose for its womanly drape, white as a wedding gown. Common legend, though Granny took the vision further. Said she-rain was like us all- little scraps torn off into the world, given to the wind, and meant to find a paradise. As she saw things, no scrap of this life is made for the trash. Even the most ragged are fit to beautify somewhere. Fit for some quilting into the finery of creation."

Beautiful, yes...but with some 350 pages of prose like this, it sadly becomes too much, overwhelming the story. It is so dense, it becomes rather tiring, never allowing this reader at least to really become lost in the story. And this is a story intriguing enough to deserve to be lost in.
But battle on I did...I don't think it has ever taken me longer to read a book, a few pages at a time...because I had to see how the story worked out, how it all ended. And a wonderful ending it was. I just wish the journey had been a bit easier. ( )
  caitemaire | May 13, 2010 |
This was such an awesome story. The characters, the details, the language were all written soooo beautifully. The story line kept moving, never got boring, there was always something happening. This book for me was a comfort read.
The title She-Rain is explained by Granny:

"In the rise of crickets and peep frogs, Granny spread out her mountain mystic view of things again, and the whole wagon treated it as scared for a moment. She'd often speak of how a little scrap of fog tears from a rain cloud. Floats on the waves of blue ridge as if a wisp off a bride. Granny and others called it she-rain. I suppose for the womanly drape, white as wedding gown. Common legend, though Granny took the vision further. Said she-rain was like us all..."

See what I mean about the details? I can see it in my mind, what a gorgeous scene!
Frank Lock has a hard life with a drug addicted daddy, beating up on his Ma. He won't ever call him daddy, he says this about him : "Don't call him that. I'll not have that dung-mound called my daddy or pa or nothin' like it. No more."
One day something terrible happens and to save his Ma he has to run away. After days of running, he decides to jump on a train to get away from the town. When he does, he miscalculates and must jump.
Almost drowning, someone saves him. She brings him to her home and they come to share their lives, their dreams. He finds out things no one ever knew and learns what love is all about. I can't say anymore about it, you'll just have to read it!
I can't say enough how much I loved this story and I hope one day they will make a movie because it is THAT GOOD!!
Natalie ~~ ( )
  NWADEL | May 4, 2010 |
From my blog...
The description of the word she-rain is one of the most beautiful word descriptions I have ever heard and someday I hope to catch a glimpse of she-rain, until then I have Michael Cogdill's description to carry with me. A Story of Hope: She-Rain is an exquisitely written novel filled with descriptive prose of near lyrical proportions interspersed with the proficient use of dialect between the various areas in which the story occurs. She-Rain is a novel to be savoured, slowly, to allow the words and people to become a part of the reader. Cogdill brings his readers to Oconee Gap, North Carolina, where some of the most intriguing, inspirational, colourful, and flawed characters live. The story is told primarily through the main character, Franklin Locke Junior, and through him we learn wisdom from his Pap, Woodfin Lloyd Warren, beauty from his Granny, May Ella Warren, and addiction and flawed behaviour through his father, Monroe Franklin Locke as well as his Uncle Ulysses "Useless" Tickman. Throughout the novel, Franklin learns of strength, faith, compassion, and forgiveness primarily through the women in his life, especially, his mother Dovie, Mary Lizbeth, and Sophia Procter. To share more would rob the reader of this brilliantly woven novel. It is sufficient to say She-Rain is a multi-dimensional novel of faith, abuse, fear, addiction, friendship, love, and hope which is written through the use of vivid imagery, characters the reader grows to adore or learns to understand over an 84-year period. She-Rain is a novel that draws the reader in, making the reader want to pause to absorb every nuance and feeling. She-Rain would make for a brilliant choice for a discussion group. If anyone has read this book, I would very much like to hear your thoughts. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Apr 16, 2010 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

As great as basement presses are (and I'm a big advocate of them, believe me), there is also a legitimate problem concerning most of them, an issue that critics of that industry are constantly raising and that I generally agree with, which is that most authors simply need more outside help on their novels than most small presses can afford to give; and I can think of no better recent example of this than She-Rain, the newest book by former journalist Michael Cogdill, noble in its intentions but in desperate need of a tough editor. See, Cogdill starts out simply enough, wishing to write a Southern Gothic tale about an abusive father and the damage he inflicts on the rest of his family; but unfortunately he then loads down his manuscript with so much heavy, syrupy regional dialect and rural cliches, it becomes by the end less a Southern Gothic tale and more like a parody of a Southern Gothic tale, with entire pages sometimes that sound more like that Simpsons episode about "A Streetcar Named Desire" than a legitimate piece of literature. A good editor could've fixed this before the book itself came out, could've gotten in there and really pared this manuscript back to its most necessary core; for this not to happen in this case is a real disservice to Cogdill himself, who I suspect would be a pretty decent prose writer if he'd simply rein in the endless phonetic dialogue and Faulkner ripoffs. As much as I always hate to do this to independent authors promoting small books, today I'm forced to give She-Rain an official pass, and not recommend it to a general audience.

Out of 10: 5.8 ( )
  jasonpettus | Mar 16, 2010 |
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In the early 20th Century, a pair of North Carolina mountain children sow the seed of a love that becomes their only solace in the hard yet beautiful world they know. They grow it from steep ground of poverty, ignorance, and violence. A landscape so brutal it can kill hope long before claiming life. Bloodshed years later finally sends Frank Locke on the run, deep into wilderness, abandoning his extraordinary love, Mary Lizbeth. When a whitewater river washes this desperate soul into the hands of Sophia, he discovers a luminous woman steeped in mystery, trapped in a tragically brilliant life. Far ahead of her time. Secreted from the world. As she awakens Frank's mind, they rise to meet a love that binds three people for a lifetime. This love triangle forms a beauty no one sees coming. From the wilds of Appalachia, crossing nearly a century, it runs deep into a lush American fortune, and lives in letters of adoration and hope of the least expected. In a rhapsody of Southern voices, mingling hilarity and sorrow, She-Rain speaks of lives soaring beyond heartbreak, fundamentalism, and self-destruction. Through the most graceful longing, two women in love with one man ultimately prove the power of human hearts to answer high callings. They show us all how to heal -- and thrive -- to the very end.… (more)

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