Alice J. Wisler
About the Book
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No memories. Only a kimono-clad doll and one aged photo are left to remind Nicole Michelin that, for the first two years of her life, she had a mother who loved her. These are not enough to fill the empty place in her heart where her past should reside. Nicole prays that one day her questions will be answered, but never anticipates God’s unique response.
When a deadly house fire in Japan takes the life of a young missionary mother, her husband and her toddler, Nicole, return to their home in North Carolina. Deeply affected by his wife’s death, Nicole’s father goes from missionary to recluse --- depressed, neurotic, unwilling to share any details of Nicole’s life in Japan or her deceased mother.
RAIN SONG begins with Nicole at age 31, with no recollection of being rescued from the fire or anything before life in Mount Olive, North Carolina, where she grew up making pineapple chutney and attending family reunions with her quirky but lovable relatives. Year after year, Nicole longs for answers as she tends to her daily routine of teaching English, taking care of her fish, biting her nails and fearing planes, motorcycles and anything related to Japan. Until she meets an online stranger.
Harrison Michaels emails Nicole after reading one of her columns on the Pretty Fishy website. He asks her about a problem with his Koi, then later sends her a poem. It is soon obvious to Nicole that he hails from Japan, and she vows to end all communication with him. The vow lasts about as long as an ice cube in the North Carolina sun. Something about this man and his life in Japan entice her to continue communicating. One morning, Nicole opens her email to see a message from Harrison that nearly stops her heart. “Nicole, my mother remembers the night you were born.”
Thus begins an unwilling adventure for Nicole, a girl who holds onto routine and tradition like precious gems. Someone other than her semi-estranged father knows something about the first two years of her life. And Harrison is the connection to that someone. Nicole soon finds out there is another person in Japan who remembers more than her mother’s kindness and friendship. In a nursing home in Kyoto, an old woman holds the key to Nicole’s past and her father’s demise. Will she cast aside her fears and journey to the place where her mother died and her father became a shell of his former self? Nicole knows that only God can provide that kind of courage, if she is so inclined to ask.
While Nicole’s online relationship with Harrison slowly develops, she finds herself seeing the world in a new light, one that illuminates those dark corners where her fears dwell. With God’s guidance, she begins to see with her heart rather than her eyes and even discovers “the beauty within” her cousin’s little daughter, Monet the Terror Child.
After reading the first chapter, I wondered if RAIN SONG would have enough going on to hold my interest. I liked Nicole’s endearing voice right off the bat, as well as the colorful characters of her aunt and grandmother Ducee as they sat around planning the family reunion. But nothing major seemed to be happening --- no gut-wrenching emotional scenes, no heart-pounding action. Yet the book continued to draw me in. Like Nicole, I couldn’t wait for Harrison’s next email to see what he would reveal about her past. I loved the North Carolina imagery and Ducee’s “Southern Truths.” I even longed to try some pineapple chutney, which author Alice J. Wisler makes possible with the inclusion of the recipe at the end.
RAIN SONG, Wisler’s debut novel, is a lovely story. It provides the kind of escape from the real world that every reader seeks and leaves one feeling good about God’s limitless ability to provide strength, courage and answers to prayer.
--- Reviewed by Susan Miura
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