Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes (2002)

I love the work of British novelist Jojo Moyes, I find her writing to be the perfect mix of romantic and realistic: endlessly hopeful that love with always win in the end. I have read almost of of her work and have reviewed three of her novels on this blog; you can find all three under the tag “Jojo Moyes” on the right-hand side of this website.

Sheltering Rain is Moyes’ first novel and while it is not nearly as fine-tuned and lovely as some of her later work, it was still a great read, easily transporting me from a 100+ degree day by the pool to the cold, rainy Irish countryside where I followed the story of three generations of Ballyntyne women.

Using her now signature writing device, Moyes tells the story of the family matriarch, Joy, using flashbacks to describe her young adulthood, meeting her husband, and the early years of their marriage. These stories serve to soften the somewhat rigid, harsh woman that Joy has become late in her life; the woman that her granddaughter Sabine first comes to meet at the start of the story.

Sixteen-year-old Sabine, the family’s youngest women, tells most of the present-day action from her point of view. A tumultuous and angry teenager, Sabine has been sent unwillingly to live with her elderly and estranged grandparents in a rural town in Ireland. She is furious at her mother, Kate (who she blames for their less-than-perfect life in London) and she spends her early weeks in Ireland sulking and refusing to build relationship with her grandparents. Slowly, among the family’s neighbors, friends, and archives, a more complete picture of who her mother and her grandmother really are emerges and Sabine learns that it is lovely — if, at times, complicated — to be a part of a large family.

Interspersed with Sabine’s account are stories told from her mother Kate’s point of view. Kate fled her parent’s home at eighteen and has tried to make a life for herself and her daughter as far — physically and emotionally — from the one she had as a girl. Now that her daughter is living a life very similar to the one she abandoned, she must confront the painful past she shares with her family.

All in all, Sheltering Rain is a nice novel. Even if it’s not as wonderful as some of the author’s other books, it is still an great romantic novel. Within the pages of this first novel are some of the things that will go on to define Moyes’ later, more substantial novels: including her wonderfully drawn characters, her great love stories, and her belief that unveiling secrets can heal relationships.

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