a little east of reality

Friday, July 08, 2005

envy the rain: a book review

Envy The Rain by Jamie Boud

Synopsis: Drew’s life is left in a disillusioned spin after his discovery of Andie’s affair ends their relationship. This book tells the story of his efforts to reconfigure his perspective (read: deal) and of the people he meets as he travels (literally and figuratively) through his new life without Andie.

Okay, so obscure unexplained titles aside, Envy The Rain is a hell of a book. I waited so long to get it (credit card shamozzle) that I really didn’t want to read it all in a day, so I deliberately waited to take it on my Sydney trip. This meant I was reading it in short blocks…a little on the bus ride before the motion of the bus made me too sleepy to read, a couple of chapters on each of my train rides to and from the city to Werrington where I was staying, several pages over lunch trying very hard to eat negi ramen without making any drips on the pages, more pages at night and over breakfast. Even with so much to do these last few days, I still finished it in 3 days. It sat in my bag constantly, and claimed all of my spare moments.

From what I’ve read of Jamie’s storytelling previously, I expected the story to be character-driven, and it was. As is always the case with his writing, this is its greatest strength. I saw these people in front of me like I was watching a movie. At times it felt like a gritty art house movie, and at other times more like the kind of offbeat film John Cusack might star in. And continuing on the movie theme, I have to say the transitions to the flashback scenes are perfect. The flashbacks themselves are also right on the money. They come at the right time, and we learn what we need to about Andie, and about what has gone before, in the right amount, at the right moment in the story. This is extraordinarily hard to do and it was seamless.

What struck me most about Drew, the main character, is his inertia. It’s like once he finds out, not so much about the affair, but about the fact that it’s been going on for 3 years (hey, it’s not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb on the back of the book) he just has no way to know how to handle what’s happened, and what continues to happen from then on. He’s lost a sense of trust in his ability to see reality and know what to do with it. Consequently a lot of the action in the book comes from the people he encounters and his response to them, rather than from the character himself. The degree to which this is true changes over the course of the book and maybe is a bit of a gauge of how far he has progressed at regaining a hold on his life and his ability to be happy. That’s my impression anyway – I’ll test the theory the next time I read it.

This kind of story is rarely told from a guy’s perspective. If I had to pick a word to sum it up with, I’d use ‘honest’. Drew isn’t a hero in the traditional sense. He makes good and bad choices; he spends a lot of the book feeling inept, or uncertain, or defeated. But in the end there’s more to him than that, and he finds it. It’s a sad story – often stark – but no less beautiful for that. What stood out in the end was the human element. It’s not my world he’s describing. I know almost nothing about strippers. I don’t drink, I’ve never used drugs. I don’t meet people in bars and wake up the next morning in their bed. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. There wasn’t a single feeling described in this book that I couldn’t relate to in some way. I’ve loved, I’ve been hurt, I’ve felt confused and betrayed and wondered where the hell my life is going. I’ve needed to escape, and occasionally done so. People are people. Life is hard; sometimes it’s good.

It’s a great book. I reached the end wishing there was more. I hope you take a chance on it. I’m looking forward to whatever he writes next.