Title: Before the Rain
Author: Luisita Lopez Torregrosa
Publisher: HMH Books
Other Reviews for This Author: None
Memoirs. Not really a genre of books that I've been known to frequent as a reader. Nonfiction or semi-nonfiction, in any sense, has not been an appealing topic to me because of the nature of reading as escapism. Memoir is a writing type that doesn't view reality through the complex veil of fictional endeavors, but instead attempts to show life as something poetic and hyper-realistic, viewing it in all of its scopes and themes as something bigger than our day-to-day attempts at living through it. Before the Rain was suggested to me, though, and I take attention when readers sell me reads by hand. It's definitely the type of memoir that inspires me to read and write more broadly, because it's a beautiful, elegant, heart-breaking look at the love story between two women in the 80's and 90's. It's not a coming out book. It's not a prejudice book. It's a book about love and how, sometimes, it dematerializes - proving just how universal love is regardless of sexuality.
Before the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Revolution is not a traditional story in the sense that a plot summary can convey. It's a story that spans several strained years and follows Luisita and her love Elizabeth as they work as reporters for various news outlets, including the New York Times. It's a time of sweeping political upheaval in the Philippines, and both women go to Manila to write about the revolution for the American papers. They leave behind their lives in the states - Elizabeth a crumbling marriage, Luisita a stable editorial position - in order to delve into their relationship and its untouched boundaries.
Luisita tells her story in a way that is unlike most modern love stories. The many subtleties of a woman-to-woman romantic relationship in that time period make up the bulk of her narrative. Luisita remembers the emotions; the quiet of summer nights in Manila and languid graces of fingers on exposed skin; conversations that last until dawn with glasses of wine and looks that say more than basic friendship. It's a love story in the sense that the sentiment and the emotion are all told and expressed as though they were expressed by a Renassiance painter, incorporating individual details that add up into an emotional whole that is more than it appears to be on the surface.
This kind of love story makes the memoir a read that's hard to aptly describe. As a pleasure-reading experience, it falls short in the sense that it doesn't use drama, relationship dynamics, the political backdrop, or, well, anything to capitalize on the potentially more 'active' parts of the story in order to interest readers. It's not a book that people can turn to and say, "Well, I just want something entertaining that will go by fast.' The 228 pages of carefully constructed prose take a while to fully appreciate. They move with their own sense of rhythm and beat, reading in a way that is both inherently beautiful and outwardly so. Luisita has a way of telling her story that allows this beauty to feel personal, as though she is relating the grand story around a warm fire while sharing a glass of sherry with you.
What struck me most about it, though, was how the love story was universal. Before the Rain shows the difficulty of starting a relationship with someone who has to leave one they have already comitted to - how people like Elizabeth and Luisita, in the age they grew up in, never expected to be physically and emotionally attraced to a woman. Their relationship is powerful in how tentative it is, yet amazing in how much raw power shows through because of the way they slowly build up to their affections. The story doesn't focus purely on the happiness, though, and shows the struggle that comes with the relatonship as well. The love expressed in Before the Rain is the forever altering, once-in-a-lifetime kind of love that, in this case, sees its lovers growing past it. Elizabeth and Luisita struggle with their emotional highs and lows; the passions and insecurities that attract them to each other strain the relationship as well as the distance that comes from their reporting.
Before the Rain strikes the reader with a setting and time period that provides a perfect backdrop for a real, complex portrayal of the love between two reporters who are too much themselves to sustain their true love forever. It's a memoir that shows just how universal the tale of love - and of losing that love - is, regardless of the sexuality that houses said love. Elegant, soft prose weaves the tale together, creating a read that is meant to be savored with a fine beverage and an open mind. I can't say that I've read anything quite like Before the Rain before, but it broke my heart. Breaking my heart, as crazy as it may seem, made me love it all the more. It gave me the chance to see just how real this experience was for Luisita, and how I can only admire her for showing this extremely personal, extremely challenging part of her life that stays with her to this very day.
Cover: It's simple but iconic. The font and the way the picture is textured make you think of hot island nights, which is kind of perfect.
Rating: 5.0 Stars
Copy: Received from publisher/publicist for review (Thank you, Trish and TLC Book Tours!)