Patricia Averbach, RESURRECTING RAIN

Coming in February 2020

When middle-aged Martin Berman invests in a bad real estate deal, the family loses its upscale home in Shaker Heights Ohio and its savings, including college tuition funds for the kids, Lauren and Elliot. What cascades out of such a loss? A novel's worth of disasters and adventures, rejections and new meetings, growth and regrowth. A novel's worth of insights into human choices, coping strategies, ways of valuing and judging. A novel's worth of deftly deployed symbols, achingly exact descriptions, subtle observations. Averbach presents protagonist Deena Berman's reactions with wit and empathy, slowly introducing an impressive range of characters. A college librarian, Deena packs up the house which she's seen as proof of her family's stability and success; as she sorts and recycles, she finds her decades-old college application essay. It tells a moving story about how her own mother had rejected an affluent family, become a hippie, moved west and renamed herself "Rain"-- and how Deena had been
raised in a primitive little commune called New Moon until, at age 14, she'd run away from her two moms and moved in with her stiff and proper Jewish grandmother. No longer called Harmony, she'd reinvented herself as Deena and never looked back.

She rips the paper into tiny pieces, but this "college essay" keeps readers anchored, wondering about whether a mother named Rain might somehow be resurrected. As the present-day plot evolves and devolves, Averbach follows through with exquisitely crafted episodes, deftly drawn characters--some as complex as the talented Hungarian photographer who costs Deena her job, some as surprisingly individualized as the tattooed landlord who kicks her out of her apartment in Sarasota. Resurrecting Rain does full and realistic justice to the angry son who refuses to communicate, the lively daughter who morphs into a blue-haired freegan with a cell phone but no forwarding address, and the thoroughly depressed husband, glued to the television set. Readers feel viscerally the temptations, panics, pleasures, shames, and hopes which follow the loss of a privileged lifestyle.

In the middle of her long spiral down toward homelessness, Deena encounters an elderly woman, an idiosyncratic--what? bag lady?--who feeds and carries on salty conversations with crows. Raisa Goetz, like Deena's grandmother, had lost most of her family in the Holocaust. But Raisa's growth process has been very different from Bubbe's. Just ask the crows. And if Patricia Averbach happens to end her novel with a New Moon celebration--well, are we really cynical enough to begrudge the very human characters she's created their moment in the moonlight?