Friday, November 2, 2018

Review of Rain Falls on Everyone by Clár Ni Chonghaile (2017, Legend Press)

Rescued by an Irish aid worker, Theo arrived in Ireland from Rwanda aged seven. Aged twenty two and with an engineering degree, the financial crisis means he cannot find suitable work. Instead he takes up a job working in a restaurant kitchen and sells drugs for a criminal gang. At the restaurant he meets Deirdre, a middle-aged woman with three kids, and the pair form an unlikely friendship. Both are struggling to make a place in the world they are happy with. Theo is haunted by his childhood memories and is looking for a way out of the drugs trade. Deirdre wants an end to her domestic abuse but is too afraid and resigned to leave. When Theo’s friend Neville, the boyfriend of Deirdre’s daughter, Grace, is given a punishment beating by the criminal gang that Theo deals for, it provides the catalyst for change. But change comes with a heavy cost that neither is sure they want to pay.

Rain really does fall on everyone in Clár Ni Chonghaile’s tale of identity and belonging in situations of violence. Set in Dublin, the tale focuses on the life of Theo, a young man bought up in Dublin after being rescued from the Rwandan genocide, and his friendship with Deirdre, a middle-aged woman living with domestic abuse. Theo is somewhat of a lost soul who finds solace in the Irish language and poetry and deals drugs for a criminal gang to get by. Deirdre has resigned herself to living with the violence of her husband. Their lives become intricately interwoven through two key events centred on Theo’s best friend, Neville, that forces them both to confront their past and their future. Ni Chonghaile’s tale is a carefully crafted slice of social realism. It is shot through with empathy and pathos, but it is not for the faint-hearted with its scenes and discussion of domestic abuse, genocide, gang violence, suicide, and racism. These are not glorified, but rather form an everyday backdrop to ordinary people living difficult lives. The characterisation, character development across the story, social interactions and sense of place are excellent, and the whole tale has a deep-sense of believability to it. I can’t say it was a joyous or entertaining read, but it was certainly engaging, thought-provoking and compelling.

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