Thursday, May 13, 2010

a review of "She-Rain" [34]

She-Rain: A Story of Hope by Michael Cogdill
(Morgan-James, ISBN 978-160037-702-0)
Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1920's is a hard life, even harder if your father is drug addicted and abusive and your family is quite literally dirt poor. Frank Locke Jr. hates the man for whom he is named, hates him so much that at many times he dreams of killing him. Especially the times his father, in a drug induced rage, becomes violent. It seems, if it weren't for the assistance of his grandparents, his beloved Granny and Pap, who live on a nearby farm scratching out their own living from the mountains, he and his mother would never have survived.
But he is not the only one in these mountains living a tragic life. In school as a young boy, he meets the woman who will be love of his life, Mary Lizbeth, who has her own even more difficult story to live.

As the years go on, Frank becomes a young man and, with his grandparents having died, he is the only support and sole defender of his mother. When a terrible act of violence occurs, hoping the blame will be cast on him and to protect those he loves, Frank flees from his home, leaving behind his mother and the beautiful Lizbeth. But the mountains into which he runs, while beautiful, are hard and dangerous and Frank soon finds himself in deadly danger, only to be saved by another woman, the mysterious Sophia. Brilliant and lovely, she lives in a world of books and music and education, but hidden from the world. As she starts to share this with Frank, he finds himself in the midst of a world he never really knew existed. He also finds himself in the middle of a mystery that is decades old and an injustice that goes back far longer.
Young Frank is torn between two worlds, between two women it might seem at first, but in realty, hr is part of something that will tie these people together for their entire lives.

She-Rains is a wonderful story, almost a magical story, and this book paints some wonderful characters in a wild and fantastic setting of the mountains of North Carolina. That's the good news.
But it is also a book that I found painfully slow to read.
The story is told by Frank, looking back on his life and written in the dialect of a mountain boy from the South. That I could have adjusted to. But the rest of the prose, beyond the dialogue, is also written in a very distinctive style. Much of it is very beautiful, poetic even, as you can see from this small quote about how his grandmother described these she-rains for which the book is named...
"In the rise of crickets and peep frogs, Granny spread out her mountain mystic view of things again, and the whole wagon treated it as sacred for a moment. She'd often speak of how a scrap of fog tears from a rain cloud. Floats on the waves of blur ridge as if a wisp off a bride. Granny and others call it she-rains, I suppose for its womanly drape, white as a wedding gown. Common legend, though Granny took the vision further. Said she-rain was like us all- little scraps torn off into the world, given to the wind, and meant to find a paradise. As she saw things, no scrap of this life is made for the trash. Even the most ragged are fit to beautify somewhere. Fit for some quilting into the finery of creation."
Beautiful, yes...but with some 350 pages of prose like this, it sadly becomes too much, overwhelming the story. It is so dense, it becomes rather tiring, never allowing this reader at least to really become lost in the story. And this is a story intriguing enough to deserve to be lost in. Can you have too many beautiful words? Yes.

But battle on I did...I don't think it has ever taken me longer to read a book, a few pages at a time...because I had to see how the story worked out, how it all ended. And a wonderful ending it was. I just wish the journey had been a bit easier, a bit more flowing down a lovely, cool stream and a little less climbing a mountain, that while impressive, plum wore me out.

My thanks to Caitlin at FSB Associates for my copy of this book


  1. Michael Cogdill is a local author for me, so I really should try this book, but I haven't felt compelled to for some reason.

  2. I know what kind of books you are talking about ... I can only take so many in a year.

  3. Michael Cogdill, author of She-Rain here, with my thanks for this review. Rarely does a reader love everything about a book, and your review here speaks with graceful honesty on both sides of how She-Rain made you feel. Thank you for every moment you spent in the prose. We've had so many 5-star reviews, and if all reviews came in at that level I'd worry about the credibility of the review process! My warmest peace to you and to everyone who ventures into the world of She-Rain!

  4. Mr. Cogdill, I thank you for stopping by.

    There is a lot I loved about your book, but sadly, not everything. I do wish I had nothing negative to say, because surely I don't enjoy that part of reviewing.

    Especially when the author posts a

  5. Caite, not to worry. I'm most grateful for your review. Such honesty makes me a better writer. Please cite for me a couple of places that snagged you as a reader. This will benefit She-Rain -- and me -- in the long run!!

    I'm most grateful to you. Warmest peace,
    P.S. You can reach me at if you'd like. I welcome you!!


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