This little novel is one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.
The narrative voice of Rose Howard is direct, compelling and sometimes heart-breaking. She sets out to tell her story with structured, straight-forward honesty, setting out the events and providing the background we need to understand them. She even gives us permission to skip the chapters that, experience has taught her. we might find boring, like when she explains her rules for listing homonyms (which are really homophones but she knows that homonym is an accepted colloquialism) and which are even more fascinating than prime numbers.
She tells us about her life , her father’s life, why she isn’t allowed to ride the school bus any more, her teacher, her classmates, her uncle, the damage that Super Storm Hurricane Susan did and her dog, Rain (whose name is a homonym: R A I N and R E I G N), whom she loves even more than homonyms and who loves her back.
Rose is a high-functioning autistic, so she sees the world differently from most people. As she told her story, I began to understand the clarity and honesty of Rose’s vision and to share her ability to take joy in things that most people don’t value (what can I say: I really do enjoy homonyms) and to admire the effort she puts in to communicate with the people around her despite their tendency to break rules and to be mean to each other.
Some of Rose’s behaviours are distressing to her and to the people around her. Her ability to experience and express empathy is very limited. She has to work hard to make her behaviour “appropriate” and she does not like to be touched. It does not occur to Rose to feel sorry for herself. This is not to say that she doesn’t feel sorrow. She feels it deeply. When she asks what she is supposed to do with the blank spaces in her day that used to be filled by things she loved, I wanted to hold her. I wouldn’t have, of course. Rose doesn’t like to be touched.
The book is written with a gratifying lack of sentimentality and a complete absence of self-pity which I found made the emotional impact of the book even stronger.
Rose is not a victim. She doesn’t need to be rescued. She is a little girl. She needs to love and to be loved back. For everything else, she will make a plan and find a way through.
Years ago, when it was fashionable, I tried to read “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” and gave up because I felt the autistic child was being used as a clever plot device. “Rain Reign” grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go because it is a book in which a little girl tells her story with complete honesty. The fact that she is a high functioning autistic is no more or less important that that she’s a girl, or an American, or that she lives alone with her father.
I strongly recommend the audio version of this book. Laura Hamilton performs Rose perfectly.