Leaving Before the Rains Come
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Published: Penguin Press, 2015
Hardcover Edition: 258 pages
Source: Personal copy
Alexandra Fuller’s latest memoir reads in a thrilling page-turning fashion. The reader is immersed in the culture clash between two homes: Southern Africa and Western America. Life growing up in Africa in the 70’s and 80’s could only be lived dangerously. Warring peoples, wild animals, isolated living circumstances in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, diseases such as malaria, not to mention her own wild-eyed eccentric family kept everyone there on the edge of disaster. Life in Wyoming offers material comforts, natural beauty the equal of Africa and a more stable family, at least on the surface. But when one is reared in danger, comfort can almost seem boring. Maybe the rhythm is just wrong?
One of the things to most love about this memoir and its writer is that she never stops writing. The act of writing props up her life. What determination she shows to keep writing in the face of five or six rejected novels, though she was and is a successful magazine writer and now her memoirs are selling, selling, selling.
And indeed she is a gifted writer. Her sentences are jampacked with interesting words, thoughts, composition. Let me find a few to share with you. “The day came and went, and in spite of Psalm 90:10 my father didn’t die.” However, on that warm summer London afternoon, in the revelation of Pammy’s prolonged morning for her son, I saw that our English relatives were just as vulnerable and broken as we were.” “After six months we crashed back toward one another, unable to tolerate the unaccustomed anxiety of ourselves alone and the children’s bewildered sorrow.”
And along the way there are life lessons–– one reason for reading a memoir. “Letting other people row their own boat to shore,” Dad said. “That’s the tricky bit.” This woman never preaches, never sounds above-it-all, never writes pompous or self-righteous.
A few years ago I picked up Alexandra Fuller’s first memoir with the crazy title, Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight and didn’t put it down until I had finished. Other books were cast aside, other tasks on hold. Same thing happened with this book. No notes, no setting it aside, just read, and a thrilling ride of a read it is. Fuller can take life’s uncertainties, sorrows and awesome challenges while allowing the reader to feel the sadness and joy with humor. This author loves her family and treats them with love and understanding. In my experience, such kindness is difficult to find in this genre.
These days Ms. Fuller lives in a yurt in Wyoming, and she’s still writing. Don’t miss her work. She imbues it with a passion that is positively invigorating. I’m not sure how I missed her in-between memoir Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. I intend to find and read that one, too. Which title might you read?