"One of the gutsiest memoirs I've ever read. And the writing--oh my god the writing ." --Entertainment Weekly
A child of the Rhodesian wars and daughter of two deeply complicated parents, Alexandra Fuller is no stranger to pain. Read more...
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"One of the gutsiest memoirs I've ever read. And the writing--oh my god the writing." --Entertainment Weekly
A child of the Rhodesian wars and daughter of two deeply complicated parents, Alexandra Fuller is no stranger to pain. But the disintegration of Fuller s own marriage leaves her shattered. Looking to pick up the pieces of her life, she finally confronts the tough questions about her past, about the American man she married, and about the family she left behind in Africa. A breathtaking achievement, Leaving Before the Rains Come is a memoir of such grace and intelligence, filled with such wit and courage, that it could only have been written by Alexandra Fuller.
Leaving Before the Rains Come begins with the dreadful first years of the American financial crisis when Fuller s delicate balance between American pragmatism and African fatalism, the linchpin of her unorthodox marriage irrevocably fails. Recalling her unusual courtship in Zambia elephant attacks on the first date, sick with malaria on the wedding day Fuller struggles to understand her younger self as she overcomes her current misfortunes. Fuller soon realizes what is missing from her life is something that was always there: the brash and uncompromising ways of her father, the man who warned his daughter that "the problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live." Fuller s father "Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode" as he first introduced himself to his future wife was a man who regretted nothing and wanted less, even after fighting harder and losing more than most men could bear.
Leaving Before the Rains Come showcases Fuller at the peak of her abilities, threading panoramic vistas with her deepest revelations as a fully grown woman and mother. Fuller reveals how, after spending a lifetime fearfully waiting for someone to show up and save her, she discovered that, in the end, we all simply have to save ourselves.
An unforgettable book, Leaving Before the Rains Come is a story of sorrow grounded in the tragic grandeur and rueful joy only to be found in Fuller s Africa."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-17
- Reviewer: Staff
Thinking back to 1994, when the African-raised Fuller (Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness), her American husband, and their infant daughter left their cottage in Zimbabwe for a life in the mountains of Idaho and Wyoming, she writes, “Our marriage wasn’t going to be about nearly dying, and violent beauty, and unpredictability... sensible decisions, college funds, mortgages, and car payments.” In her newest memoir, Fuller insightfully explores the contrasts between the different landscapes and their corresponding mind-sets, as well as between the safe investment she intended with her marriage and the messy, isolating reality of where the relationship ended. As always, when Fuller describes the African farms of her childhood, her prose vibrates with life and death and dry British sensibility. Equally sharp are her observations about American life and its all-consuming pursuit of convenience and comfort. However, this book also attempts to tackle territory for more familiar to her Western audience—a sad, drawn-out divorce complicated by three adored children and piles of debt. Understandably, the utter banality of the day-to-day proves more difficult for Fuller to enliven with her signature punch. Nonetheless, the rich narration of Fuller’s upbringing, sensibility, and loneliness make clear that she remains one of the most gifted and important memoirists of our time. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Jan.)
Too far from home
BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, February 2015
Alexandra Fuller’s hardscrabble African lyricism returns in her third memoir, which focuses on the push-pull of her marriage to American adventurer Charlie Ross. Although much of Leaving Before the Rains Come is set in Wyoming, where Fuller settles uncomfortably into American domesticity, her war-torn childhood in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the drunken pragmatism of her parents continue to shape her worldview.
When Fuller meets her future husband at a polo club in Zambia, he seems the perfect blend of adventure and restraint. He runs a river guiding service on the Zambezi, and takes clients up Kilimanjaro—safely, with Range Rovers to collect them at the end of the adventure. It’s unlike Fuller’s own African childhood, which was filled with random acts of catastrophe and violence. Charlie’s appeal is undeniable, but so is the simmering tension between his perspective and hers.
The “sacred terror and beauty” of Africa is lost to Fuller in the mountain subdivisions of Jackson Hole, where Charlie becomes a real estate agent and frets over columns of numbers. They have three children, and the weight of American materialism displaces adventure in their relationship. The financial crisis of 2008 hits their marriage hard, as does Fuller’s heartbroken realization that she is not African anymore.
Turning to the example of her father and her English and Scottish ancestors, Fuller’s work in this memoir is to patch together her own identity and—in a profound sense—to retrieve her soul. Her father’s life lessons are what save her: among them, fearlessness, endurance and dressing for dinner. Also: humor, gin and tonics and Epsom salts. “Loss is a part of the game,” he tells Fuller, and “regret’s a waste of bloody time.”
Fuller’s blend of wry honesty and heartfelt environmental consciousness will resonate with both new readers and longtime admirers of her distinctive style.