Book Review – I STOLE THE RAIN by Elisa Ruotolo

I Stole the Rain by Elisa RuotoloI Stole the Rain Synopsis:

I Stole the Rain tells a trio of unforgettable stories from the superstitious Italian province of Campania, where fizzy drinks are delivered by cart, old women sell gold to a furtive clientele, and the tobacconist’s daughter is a prize beyond imagining.

In “I am Super Legend,” a local team of beer-swilling, smoking, perennial losers is dragged toward the dubiously prestigious championship by the coach’s son, who becomes cursed by his nickname, Super Legend.

In “Look at Me,” a motherless boy tries to help his father’s best friend, the mute Cesare, who has fallen in love with their housekeeper Silvia.

And in “The Child Comes Home,” a young boy disappears, and after losing everything and being forced to take up her grandmother’s questionably legal profession, his mother is consoled by her bickering sisters-in-law and her undying wish to hear a knock on her front door…

A sublime mixture of humor and pathos, and brimming with colorful characters, Elisa Ruotolo’s I Stole the Rain is an assured debut from one of Italy’s preeminent storytellers. (Frisch & Co.)

Translated from the original Italian by Lisa McCreadie

BOOK REVIEW

The stories within this collection I Stole the Rain by Elisa Ruotolo exude an endearing honesty and respect for people, no matter their station in life.

The first of the three stories, ‘I Am Super Legend’, tells a cautionary tale about the challenges of living up to and within other people’s expectations. Ruotolo quickly immerses her readers in quirky small town Italian culture. The strong parochial flavour rather than the plot itself was the real highlight of this piece for me.

After listening to me, I saw the conviction growing in them that legends are, deep down, an unfortunate, cursed race, too prone to bad luck.

This first story spurned the title of the collection which I thought held such wonderful meaning without pretension.

She got into the habit then of scolding us, “And what’re you doing now? Are you trying to steal the rain?”, when one of the family did something that didn’t come off.

The third and longest piece, ‘Look At Me’, is a moving story concerning the naivety of youth, the impact of our actions and the importance of not underestimating people’s worth. While featuring some dark and dry humour, the tale has a strong and important moral message, the characters learning the power of redemption through simple acts of caring and acknowledgement, the power of actions over words.

My favourite story in the collection was ‘The Child Comes Home’. It contained such colour and variety, from satire to suspense, and a narrator one couldn’t help but connect with.

She walked along the hallway with her heart rising higher and higher in her mouth. She placed a hand against the door, and it felt cold, like the key pressed against her skin. There was no point standing there silently behind a door, now that the man had taken advantage of her hurry, and the lightness of a gate without a lock, to knock from right outside.

Original and quirky, this is a beautiful and touching story of love lost and found; of accepting what you can’t control, and making the most of what you can; of finding yourself before joy can find you.

There were a few instances in the collection where I found the translation jarring but the bulk of those I have put down to the absence of English equivalents for colloquial Italian phrasing. In the main, I enjoyed Ruotolo’s writing style and in particular her skilful use of symbolism and simile.

Like her grandmother in the past, she too, must have seen her own life split in two like an old fruit which falls to the ground when the season is over.

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Ruotolo’s strength displayed in all the stories in I Stole The Rain is the development of her narrators – their thoughts and feelings, while not always noble, are unflinchingly honest. Common to all titles is an underlying sense of being part of something much larger than what’s in plain sight, and all the while still being able to find satisfaction in the simpler things life offers.

I Stole The Rain by Elisa Ruotolo is an engaging debut and a title I’d recommend to readers that enjoy originality and a more subtle and philosophical bent to their fiction.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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BOOK DETAILS: I Stole the Rain by Elisa Ruotolo ( Kobobooks | Amazon )

Genre: Short Stories, Drama, Romance, Mystery, Humour, Translation

Other reviews of I Stole the Rain: Words Without Borders;

* My receiving a copy of this book from Frisch & Co. did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions on this title.

Comments

  1. says

    I tend to avoid short story collections (I often feel like the story ends just as I’ve started falling in love with it!), but this one sounds very interesting. I really like books with a strong sense of place (“quirky small town Italian culture”). Great review!

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