Book Reviews: The Rain Before It Falls and Pieces of the Left Hand

The Rain Before It Falls, by Jonathan Coe and
Pieces for the Left Hand, by J. Robert Lennon

I read these two books last month and really enjoyed both of them. The first story, purchased on impulse at Target (I now know that Target was targeting just me with this book: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/books/22target.html), consisted of vignettes told to a tape recorder by Rosamond. Rosamond uses old pictures to tell the story, mostly chronologically, of her family and her life. There are shocking events that take place, and as you read along you really feel like you can see the pictures taking form in your mind; for example you feel what it was like to be sent away from your family to the English countryside during the Second war. I was surprised that a male wrote this book for some reason.

The book left me with a few questions because at least one story line is not concluded. I often wonder if this is just poor editing or whether it was intentional. (Mr. Coe what happened with the daughter’s boyfriend? Did it matter? Just wondering.)

The second book, Pieces for the Left Hand, comprises of loosely related vignettes (again) told about life in a small northeastern town (I see Williamstown, MA in my head when I read the book). The stories are told from a first person plural point of view most of the time. This is typically very difficult to pull off, because most of the time two people don’t see and feel the same things. You know the author is really a man, and he is often telling things from the point of view himself and his wife. (One very famous book for using the first person plural point of view is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.)

The books both tell about the ins and outs of families and life, both the mundane and the unintended, yet interesting events of everyday life that sometimes take your breath away. Some stories in Pieces of the Left Hand, forced me to read the stories out loud to Brent. And then once I read that some of the stories were true, I became even more interested in the stories. Crazy. None of the anecdotes is more than a few pages long, with most being under two pages.

One of the stories tells of a farmer who was tired of repairing his mail box after teenagers on Saturday nights used baseball bats to whack them off of their posts. This was a continual problem in Montana too. So the farmer fills the post with cement. Naturally, the star baseball player not only ends up breaking an arm, but his girlfriend in the back seat gets killed when the bat flies back and hits her in the back seat of the car. In another story, a man is a lucid dreamer, meaning he can control his dreams while he is dreaming. I won’t give it away, but needless to say, he ends up questioning his control.

Both books were excellent good reads. Check them out.

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