Since we’re fast approaching summer in the northern hemisphere, we should take some time to appreciate some of the things we associate with spring: the turn towards warmer weather, the blooming of flowers, and of course, the life-giving rains. However, Naomi Salman has chosen violence and made the rain something to fear in her debut novella, Nothing But The Rain.
Laverne lives, no survives, in a town she knows as Aloisville. Here the rain makes you forget, and the rain does not stop. One drop wipes moments from your conscience, while a bucket load has the power to erase your entire identity. Laverne survives through her journaling, finding ways to stay connected in the haunted landscape she calls home. There are others, though they are separated by the unending downpour. Precautions have been taken to reduce exposure, and in the haunting tranquility the town stirs to escape. But there is something holding them all back. Laverne doesn’t want to fight but may not have a choice in the matter. So she’ll do what it takes to survive.
Nothing But The Rain is a short and chilling story that cuts right down to the bone. It’s told through a collection of nearly coherent journals written by Laverne as she details her life in the rain. She documents small discoveries about the rain, and clues the reader in to what she might think is happening. Salman’s prose is meticulous and cold, giving Laverne’s voice a sharpness to her world weary perspective. It gives her everyday observations an edge that shadows every sentence. She is exhausted by her predicament, but manages to stay on her toes, on guard for the slightest changes in her circumstance. It’s a tenuous and stressful life that teeters on the edge, and Laverne does everything in her power to keep from falling off.
Salman pulls no punches though in this short narrative. Laverne is pure survival. Her past, while not wholly missing, is irrelevant. The future is inconceivable beyond the next few hours. This is not only displayed directly in Laverne’s words, but in how the diaries are arrayed. They are populated by broken thoughts, long diatribes, quick notes, and semi extensive histories on the ambiguous past. There are times where it feels like she is trying to console herself, the sole reader. Other times it feels like she is justifying to her future self the person she has had to become, as if looking back is a waste of time and energy. Community plans are near irresponsible in her mind, even though she admits their need at times. Salman is incredible at putting the reader in Laverne’s mindset even though from an outsider view, it’s hard to condone her worldview. It’s haunting in its ability to be understood. The fact that Salman leaves a lot of the mysteries ambiguous only heightens the character tensions.
The story is a strong use of the novella, leaning heavily on its vibes and themes to create an unforgettably stressful experience. It’s a horror story about what it means to survive when you’re unsure of who you might be from one day to the next. How it is to live when you’ve been robbed of being able to be human. How can one trust themselves when their memories, written or not can be called into question? It’s a terrifying story that wears its brutality openly, but not proudly. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and leaves the reader with more than they were looking for, despite Salman leaving many threads left tangled. I implore you to dive in head first even though it may not be safe to do so.
Rating: Nothing But The Rain – 8.0/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.