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Mary Gentry Writes

Alexandra Fuller, “Leaving Before the Rains Come”

I recently read “Leaving Before the Rains Come,” a memoir by Alexandra Fuller. This is the third memoir of Fuller’s I have read and loved. Discovering a new Fuller memoir was akin to a call from an old friend asking to meet for dinner.  Truthfully, I am such a sucker for a great title that I would have brought the book home, even if I hadn’t recognized the author.

Several years ago I read “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” a tale of the author’s chaotically unconventional life growing up in what was then Rhodesia, which she relates with stark clarity, wry humor and touching poignancy. The story of Nicola Fuller, Alexandra’s “broken, splendid, fierce” mother is captured in “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” published a few years later.

“Leaving Before the Rains Come” relates the story of the disintegration of Alexandra’s 20 plus year marriage to Charlie, an American she met and married when he was working as a Safari river guide in Zambia and Zimbabwe. As with the other two memoirs, Fuller peels back the layers in a relationship, exposing fissures and failures, without rancor or pettiness or blame.

“Voice” is critical to memoir and Fuller’s voice is reliably strong and authentic. I can hear her long after I lay the book down. Her knack for employing precisely the right word is a rarity in my reading experience and something to be celebrated.  I pause to ask myself if any other word would do and the answer is invariably ‘no.’

If you relish truly good writing and are drawn to memoir, pick up Alexandra Fuller.

Reginald Hill and the Yorkshire detective duo, Dalziel and Pascoe

Most weeks, I make the drive to Seattle and back, in order to hang out my grand daughter and catch up with my daughter and son in law. It is a lot of fun, once I get there. What isn’t fun about this routine is the drive itself – invariably fraught with heavy traffic, slow downs, and depending on the time of year, lots of rain.  All that becomes palatable – indeed something to look forward to – thanks to talking books.

This winter I listened my way through several of Reginald Hill’s quintessential Yorkshire detective series, featuring the duo of Dalziel and Pascoe.  Listening to the books read by a professional actor who can nail the accents and the nuances of local expressions adds greatly to the enjoyment of the tale.

Hill died in 2012 after many years of prolific output. The twists of plot are reliably intriguing and his characters surprisingly complex. Some stories are a bit dated – at least technologically – the detectives spend time looking for a ‘call box’ rather than pulling out their mobile phone.  Still, at their core, the stories are timeless, unraveling crimes motivated by greed, loss, and misplaced affection.

I regret that I missed seeing the BBC production of Hill’s work.  Perhaps Netflix will come to my rescue.  In the meantime, I continue to scour the library shelves for more recordings.  Hill’s apparent enjoyment of his characters is infectious.

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3 Responses

  1. Heather Thien says:

    I recently read a review on Leaving Before the Rains Come
    so was glad to hear you liked it….I haven’t read anything by her, so will have to check it out…..

  2. Cathy Williams says:

    It’s on my hold list at the library. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. You always have good recommendations, so I’m going to check out Reginald Hill now!

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