Life in the Rainbow: A Novel

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Life at once hilarious and horrifying is what our young hero discovers working as a nurse's aide in the Rainbow Home for the mentally ill. He ends up there by accident. In the middle of a walk across North America to Alaska in homage to his patron philosopher Henry David Thoreau, Richard stops for a haircut in Chicago where he meets Nick the Barber. Nick suggests it's not more of the road that Richard needs, but work, people, practical experience. He knows just the place. As the newest member of the Rainbow's ...
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Overview

Life at once hilarious and horrifying is what our young hero discovers working as a nurse's aide in the Rainbow Home for the mentally ill. He ends up there by accident. In the middle of a walk across North America to Alaska in homage to his patron philosopher Henry David Thoreau, Richard stops for a haircut in Chicago where he meets Nick the Barber. Nick suggests it's not more of the road that Richard needs, but work, people, practical experience. He knows just the place. As the newest member of the Rainbow's staff, Richard is soon changing diapers on middle-aged men, weathering the devastation of Mount Shirley's truth-telling eruptions, dodging the punches thrown by octogenarian Megs, and somehow dealing with all the other variations of the human type living in the Rainbow. One by one he tells us of his charges through short, funny, touching portraits. But tending to patients' daily needs is not the only challenge that Richard and his sympathetic co-workers, Dorothy and Kelvin, face. The Rainbow's new owners are angling to dump residents who are wards of the state and bring in private patients who can pay big bucks. Richard, Dorothy, Kelvin, and those few patients with the wherewithal to act strategically conspire to keep the unwanted souls where they rightfully belong.

Interrupting his walk to Alaska, the young hero takes a job at the Rainbow, a home for forgotten and not-altogether-there human beings, as a nurse's aid. Into this self-contained world, the sin of greed has come. The Rainbow's new owners are making plans to ship out the old patients to make room for wealthy patients. Now, the young hero must spring into action.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Less a novel than a series of brief character sketches, Horan's debut weakly limns a group of mentally challenged people who live in an 'asane asylum' where 'ev'ryt'ing is upaside down.' Inspired by Thoreau, narrator Richard, a recent college grad, is walking from Boston to Alaska when he stops at a barbershop in Chicago. At the suggestion of the friendly, stereotypically sagacious barber, he commits himself to a nine-month stint as a nurse's aide at The Rainbow Home. The inhabitants there include the expected roster: a paranoid schizophrenic, a multiple personality, a victim of Down's syndrome, an autistic, a monomaniac, an obsessive and so on. Richard's profiles of them provide little more than would be garnered from a social worker's files; one chapter simply notes basic facts from a patient's records. After nine months, Richard leaves to work as a private aide to one of the patients. What drama there is revolves around a new owner's attempt to remove the current residents to turn the place into a profitable private institution, but this plot ploy never reaches a proper crescendo of conflict or suspense.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Less a novel than a series of brief character sketches, Horan's debut weakly limns a group of mentally challenged people who live in an "asane asylum" where "ev'ryt'ing is upaside down." Inspired by Thoreau, narrator Richard, a recent college grad, is walking from Boston to Alaska when he stops at a barbershop in Chicago. At the suggestion of the friendly, stereotypically sagacious barber, he commits himself to a nine-month stint as a nurse's aide at The Rainbow Home. The inhabitants there include the expected roster: a paranoid schizophrenic, a multiple personality, a victim of Down's syndrome, an autistic, a monomaniac, an obsessive and so on. Richard's profiles of them provide little more than would be garnered from a social worker's files; one chapter simply notes basic facts from a patient's records. After nine months, Richard leaves to work as a private aide to one of the patients. What drama there is revolves around a new owner's attempt to remove the current residents to turn the place into a profitable private institution, but this plot ploy never reaches a proper crescendo of conflict or suspense. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
The greedy, hostile world of a for-profit Chicago "bughouse," as first-novelist Horan describes it, is no place for a young white male college graduate to serve as a nurse's aide, even if he does have a mandate from his barber and Henry David Thoreau.

Footloose and full of Thoreau's ideals, Richard set out to walk from Boston to Alaska but ran out of steam in Chicago. A chance encounter with Nick the barber, who wraps his own ideals in a tough layer of worldly wisdom, convinces Richard to begin work at the Rainbow Home, a full-care facility recently turned from being state-funded to privately financed. There, he learns the tricks and terrors of his charges, from legless Cap'n John, who lives only to smoke, and paranoid Fred, a somnolent hulk who becomes ambulatory only when enraged, a state induced by deliberate physical and verbal abuse, to ex-boxer Megs, at 80 still ready to punch the moment anyone gets in his face. With co-workers Kelvin and Dorothy, Richard expands the daily ritual of care for such wards of the state to include protection against profit-hungry nurses and administrators, who are keen to ship them all to a county lock-up in order to make room for private, better-paying customers. The anti-administrator cause is hopeless, however, and the old residents are ultimately removed, Kelvin loses his job, and Richard is demoted to serving the very clients whose presence he resents. After a close encounter with a nymphomaniac, he bonds with young Teddy, a mechanic who was brain-damaged in a motorcycle accident, and when Teddy's family decides that his own home is healthier than the Rainbow Home, Richard accepts the job offered him as Teddy's live-in attendant.

Episodic in the extreme, but the individual insights and human touches are frank and well-presented, making this more a harbinger of good things to come than an unqualified success.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781883642020
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1996
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 164
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 0.74 (d)

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