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Rain Village (2006)
by Carolyn Turgeon
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Carolyn Turgeon's novel tugged at my heart strings. It was an emotional roller coaster that caught my attention from the very beginning. Turgeon's use of narrative with a hint of magical imagination, along with a willingness to believe the unbelievable, created a world of wonder for the reader. In fact, the sadness of the novel is paired quite eloquently with the naivete to want to believe in magic and places that take there.
Tessa Riley is a young girl growing up on her family's farm in Oakley, Kansas. She has a brother, sister, and parents. But she's no ordinary girl. She's only four feet tall. She is relentlessly teased by the community because of her height. Her family are very straight laced farmers who's sole concern is maintaining the farm...to the extent that the children are discouraged from learning (they can't even read) to work on the farm. Tessa is too small for most farm work so she is told to hang from a curtain rod to try and stretch herself so she gets bigger. Her mom is distant and unloving and her father is abusive.
Enter the glamorous new town librarian, Mary. (First time I've hear that in a book.) Mary takes Tessa under her wing, teaches her to read, lets her work in the library, tells her wonderful stories, and opens the world up for Tessa. Mary also used to be a star in the circus before she left under mysterious circumstances. So when tragedy strikes, Tessa takes off to find the circus, become a star herself, and start a new life.
I loved it. It's one of those books where the characters really stick with you. Tiny Tessa is just an interesting character. She's such a small person with huge dreams. And Mary is this glamorous lovable character. I also loved that the story is pretty timeless. It could have happened anytime between the turn of the 20th Century and now. I'm assuming it takes place sometime during the 1920s-1930s. It's one of those great bittersweet stories.
I do see how Carolyn is evolving as a writer though. While great writing the beginning and end could be a tad bit shorter. If you aren't feeling the story, keep with it until she leaves to join the circus. I just loved watching her character evolve and grow.
A great coming of age tale. Tessa Riley is a tiny 12 year who's unsure of herself due to being mocked by her family and those in her town. Because of her size her family thinks she is useless to help in any way. Her mother is also embaressed by her size and wants her to hang and stretch herself in the hopes of stretching to a normal size. Tessa feels all alone in the world. Then one day Tessa meets Mary Finn, the town librarian - sexy and alluring. Mary befriends Tessa. Mary teaches Tessa how to read, tells Tessa all about her home, Rain Villiage, and teaches her how to flying with the trapeze. Tessa soon becomes enthralled with the idea of the circus and that there could possibly something for her outside of her abusive father and bible thumping mother.
Then one day, when Tessa was 16, Mary committed suiced and Tessa felt all alone again. Till the Velasquez Circus comes around and Tessa takes off. Tessa finds acceptance, happiness and love when she joins the Velasquez Circus, but Mary's death leave a hole in her soul. Then one day a mysterious man comes to the circus looking for her and any information that she has on Mary, who turns out is the man's aunt. Tessa finds herself drawn to this man through the connection to Mary and soon they are heading to Ran Village where Tessa hopes to find answers once and for all about Mary, but ends up really finding herself.
Young Tessa is a diminutive girl, far too small for farm work and the object of ridicule by both her own family and the other children in their isolated Midwestern community. Her father seems to believe in nothing beyond his crops, certainly not education for his misfit daughter. When a mysterious, entrancing librarian comes to town, full of fabulous stories, earthy wisdom and potions for the lovelorn, she takes Tessa under her wing, teaching her to read and to believe in herself--and awhole new magical world of possibilities opens up. But even as she blooms, Tessa's father begins sexually abusing her. And her mentor carries a dark secret of her own that finally causes her to drown herself. Tessa runs off, following Mary's footsteps, to join the circus as a trapeze artist, where she marries a loving man and finds a fulfilling life for herself amidst her new circus family. But she remains haunted by her past. And when a stranger from one of Mary's fabulist tales shows up, Tessa risks everything to follow him to Rain Village, where she might finally discover her mentor's tragic secret. A brilliantly evocative debut set in the early part of the 20th century, steeped in emotional turbulence and down-to-earth wisdom, where a young woman must reconcile the inner traumas from her past and learn to live in the present in order to avoid becoming prisoner to her future. Rain Village casts a fabulous spell, pulling us into a world of mystery and possibility where love, friendship and loyalty might either destroy or set one free.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
Tessa is an amazing girl. While the psychological damage done to her by the verbal and physical abuse heaped on her by her family is great indeed and an obvious aspect of her character, she does not understand what it means to give in to despair. She risks her body and her life not only to escape the pain of her childhood but also to prove to herself that she is more than her outward appearance. It is both admirable and painful to watch her tear herself to pieces, literally and figuratively, in order to heal.
The psychology behind Rain Village is intriguing. Not only does Tessa harbor scars from her past, Mary does as well. The mystery behind Mary’s scars is what fuels Tessa and yet prevents her from moving on with her life. In many ways, Mary’s presence in her life is just as damaging to Tessa’s psyche as her father’s physical and mother’s verbal abuse for the simple fact that Tessa cannot let Mary rest in peace. She cannot move forward with her life as a wife and star performer because she is still stuck in the past with Mary – the one person who is most responsible for her rescue. It is an unexpected twist in what appears to be a fairly straightforward story.
Rain Village at its heart is a very simple story about a girl who overcomes adversity through her own tenacity and the guidance of an amazing and eclectic woman. Underneath its surface though lies a morass of psychological and spiritual complications that drive Tessa’s determination and yet cause her growth to halt. It is fascinating take on the nature versus nurture debate of child-rearing, but most importantly, it is a beautiful story about the power of love.