It begins abruptly with a domestic dispute, loud enough to alert the neighbour. The police are called. Our unnamed heroine is led away and will soon face a restraining order. This is Vancouver. Rain starts as her marriage ends.
“She is not fallacious enough to connect this with her circumstances. She confines herself strictly to the facts. She leaves. It rains.”
What we find in One Hundred Days of Rain, the spare, reflective novel by Canadian author Carellin Brooks, is a poetic meditation on the unraveling of a relationship and the displacement of a woman and her small child in a city famous for its wet face, soaked streets, and days – no, months – of rain. The moments are ordinary: work, finding a place to live, stretching meagre resources. The dissolution of the marriage is bitter, acrimonious and manipulative. But much of the time the protagonist is numb, detached, preoccupied. The rain, in its infinite guises, stubborn ubiquity, tireless assault on the bodies and minds of the city’s inhabitants, is the central character. It has the starring role.
Rain is both vital and villainous:
“Outside the big front windows the rain has begun in earnest. This is the rain the denizens of the city know best, the rain they have cause to know. In the days before the weather began to change there would be weeks of it at a stretch. It is said of this rain that it drives people to suicide, that the sodden winter tried the hardest.”
It defines clothing and footwear:
“The skies drip, that’s all, and the relentless drip soaks silently into the land. She walks to the café to pick up her son. It’s a long walk but she won’t take the bus. Once again she is thankful for her thick soled shoes. The misery of bad shoes, ones that let the weather in, so that your feet when you peel off your squishy socks have a pale, pinched look of reproach. She hopes her son will be wearing boots.”
It becomes a distant memory when the summer brings sunshine. And then with autumn it is back:
“Collective amnesiacs who stare each autumn in unfeigned dismay, faces blank. What, this again? It’s raining? Forgetting as an act of self preservation. Nonsense, they say. It doesn’t rain like that. It can’t. There’s no way. A hundred days of rain one after the other? Certainly not. And the thing is, nobody lies, not consciously.”
As the sloppy, damp, year slides by, our heroine will move several times, balance visitation for her poor confused son between her ex-wife and the child’s father. Her relationship with M, the ex, is roughly fleshed out in a series of bitter vignettes. Other regular female lovers come and go. She seems at times to direct more emotion to the grey, unforgiving skies than to the people around her. She is on autopilot. It is almost as if the incessant rain risks drowning out her ability to make sense of what she really feels, thinks and wants in life. Perhaps it is simply granting time to start to heal.
Played out in a chorus of 99 short chapters, this novel, as a rumination on rain and a sketch of the endless end of a relationship, draws to a close, as it begins, with the first drops of rain. However there is a sense of a new beginning, however faint. The restrained third person narration has an arms length quality that is surprisingly engaging. The observations are sharp, precise, and often very funny. We don’t ever learn too much about the characters, we learn what we need to know. The fact that it is a same sex marriage that is coming apart is of little significance. Divorce is divorce. But we are invited to endure the Vancouver rain, appreciate it’s kaleidoscopic nature and, for some of us, remember why we live on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.
One Hundred Days of Rain is published by Canadian indie publisher BookThug.