Red Rain

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Overview

Following his acclaimed debut, Waterborne, Bruce Murkoff gives us another American panorama with a Civil War novel unlike any other.

Born near Rondout, New York, to a family steeped in wars both before and after independence, Will Harp returns home in 1864 for the first time in a decade, disconsolate over the campaigns being waged against Indians in the West even as the nation is busy tearing itself apart. His father is now buried in the Harp ...

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2010-07-06 Hardcover First Edition New Stated First Edition, for you collectors. Hardcover with dust jacket, no markings and no price clippings to dust jacket. Book ships to you ... wrapped in bubble-wrap and then boxed with FREE Delivery Confirmation. Read more Show Less

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Red Rain

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Overview

Following his acclaimed debut, Waterborne, Bruce Murkoff gives us another American panorama with a Civil War novel unlike any other.

Born near Rondout, New York, to a family steeped in wars both before and after independence, Will Harp returns home in 1864 for the first time in a decade, disconsolate over the campaigns being waged against Indians in the West even as the nation is busy tearing itself apart. His father is now buried in the Harp graveyard, surrounded by two preceding generations, and much else, too, has changed.

For Mickey Blessing, though, these are heady times. Serving the darker needs of a prosperous businessman, Harry Grieves, he commands fear and respect as few Irish immigrants have managed to do in a society still hostile to their presence. The man he’d replaced had enlisted and is now missing in the horrors of Cold Harbor, leaving Mickey’s sister, Jane, fearing the worst about her fiancé’s survival.

Coley Hinds, orphaned as a child, is fending for himself and fast growing savvy as the town around him bustles with trade and tragedy. In his stable-basement lodgings, he reads Western serials that he hopes will describe his future, but then falls under the sway of Mickey, who recognizes in him the powerless waif he once had been himself.

All of these lives and more are intertwined when the bones of a mastodon surface on a neighboring farm that Will quickly purchases, pursuing a fervent boyhood interest. He finds an eager assistant in Coley, who suddenly needs refuge from budding criminality when Mickey suffers a hideous loss and develops an unhealthy obsession with a baby found on Jug Hill, where free black people have lived for generations. And before long, every fate is uncertain as calamity threatens to envelop them all.

Red Rain
is masterful in both its specifics—Coley’s pet squirrel, the erotic tableaux Will’s photographer friend contrives, the bakery where Jane finds comfort as well as income—and its broad historical sweep, which reaches from the settling of the Hudson River Valley to the bloodshed now ravaging the South and the West. Its characterizations are impeccable, whether of Grieves’s dream of a grand hotel or Mickey’s love of water, with not one gripping love story but several. And its plotting is relentless, weaving stories from various times and places that inevitably converge, right here in Rondout, with heart-stopping intensity. Engrossing and revelatory, Red Rain shows an extraordinarily talented writer expanding his already great range, and at the very top of his form.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Murkoff's distinctive second novel (after the much acclaimed Waterborne) spans five months in 1864 as Dr. William Harp returns to his Hudson Valley hometown after 10 years on a California expedition. With the nation at war and many locals in various states of decline, the doctor doesn't have much idle time. Among the lives that will intersect are mischievous, hard-drinking 13-year-old Coley Hinds, who is eternally torn between right and wrong; retired shipping captain Mickey Blessing; and Mickey's sister, Jane, who pines for her MIA soldier husband, Frank. A narrative lynchpin comes in the discovery of a mastodon skeleton, leading Will to purchase the land where it's found and to scavenge for other remains. Meanwhile, the hushed death of a local woman, violence involving Mickey and a local troublemaker, and jealousy of Will's notoriety for the skeleton he's begun reconstructing on his land all make for a heady denouement. The townsfolks' elaborately described machinations have a tendency to move the narrative in stops and starts, but that's about the only flaw in this dense, deliberate, and lush saga that will surely appeal to readers who appreciate brawny historicals. (July)
From the Publisher

“A rich, thick stew of an historical novel, powerfully imagined and thoroughly believable…Red Rain is an engaging and bloody-minded read of great conviction that hints at a dark vision of the American present through its confident handling of our past….Gorgeous.” —Peter Behrens, The Washington Post
 
“Remarkable….Written with a gritty, melancholy beauty, Red Rain is American storytelling at its best.” —Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
 
“A sprawling, meandering novel, chock-full of sensory detail that is sometimes painfully acute…Murkoff is a master at [the] evocation of time and place.” —Michele Leber, Booklist
 
“[A] dense, deliberate, and lush saga that will surely appeal to readers who appreciate brawny historicals.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“It is not sufficient to say that Bruce Murkoff is a terrific writer of historical fiction.  He’s a terrific writer, period, and his ability shines through again in Red Rain.” —Kevin Baker
 
“In prying his spade to uncover a remote backwater and its inhabitants during seminal moments of America’s history, the Civil War as well as the Indian wars of the western expansion, Bruce Murkoff takes a tremendous risk, but the result is page-turning brilliance. With a remarkable cast of characters and spot-on authenticity, Red Rain delivers no simple tale of love, loss, greed, ambition and racism but delves beyond these categories, spinning an engrossing tale of the viciousness and hopes of the human spirit. Given the central setting on the mid-Hudson river, it’s impossible not to consider the possibility that Bruce Murkoff may be a modern Rip Van Winkle, emerging to bear witness. Red Rain is that rare achievement, a novel both grand and deeply grounded.” —Jeffrey Lent
 
“Bruce Murkoff is the most natural novelist I’ve read in years, very much in the tradition of Dickens and Twain.  His dialogue is as pitch-perfect as birdsong at dawn.  Red Rain is steeped in the natural world of great unspoiled swatches of 19th-century American geography.  Best of all, Murkoff writes about his splendidly varied characters as easily and affectionately as if he grew up with them all.  I haven’t been so engrossed by a novel from this era since Lonesome Dove.” —Howard Frank Mosher
 

Peter Behrens
Bruce Murkoff's Red Rain is a rich, thick stew of a historical novel, a powerfully imagined and thoroughly believable vision of America in its nadir summer of 1864.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
Following up his acclaimed first novel (Waterborne), Murkoff again offers a work of historical fiction, this one taking place in the Hudson River port town of Rondout, NY, during 1864. While far removed from the Civil War battlefields, the townsfolk nevertheless remain affected by the war, as many of the men have gone to fight. Physician Will Harp, now returning his family farm after many years in the West, where he rode with the cavalry, and Jane Blessing, a woman who waits in the home of her betrothed, Frank Quinn, after he enlists, reflect most emphatically the emotional pain that war inflicts. Other characters, while not outwardly involved in the war itself, use physical violence in their day-to-day life to win their way in conflicts. This is not to say that this story depicts only bloodshed, as there are also instances of artistic accomplishment, scientific discovery, and genuine affection that make many of the characters people the reader can care about. VERDICT An in-depth examination of life in a gritty river town during wartime in an era of both uncertainty and progress that also provides an assortment of fascinating characters, this work is to be savored. Well worth considering, especially where historical fiction is popular.—Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307272072
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.58 (w) x 7.04 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Murkoff lives with his wife, the artist Suzanne Caporael, in Stone Ridge, New York.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is a deep historical tale

    In 1864 after spending the last decade as part of the cavalry in California fighting against Indians, Dr. William Harp returns home to his Rondout, New York farm depressed over the atrocities he witnessed. Although the Hudson Valley is far from the battlefields, William quickly realizes his neighbors are impacted by the men at war. Dr. Harp is very concerned with the wellbeing of those left behind.

    Thirteen years old Coley Hinds is becoming a drunkard. Jane Blessing fears for the life of her spouse Frank Quinn, missing in action and presumed dead. Her brother Mickey Blessing retired from shipping, but increasingly turns violent as an enforcer for businessman Harry Grieves; Mickey mentors Coley on how to enforce a business deal. Finally a local woman has been murdered, but no one wants to talk about it as Will begins to find a mastodon's skeletal remains one bone at a time.

    This is a deep historical tale that looks closely on the impact of war on those far from the front, but affected either by loved ones in uniform or the economic shock. The ensemble cast is fully developed to that each brings to life what the Civil War and the Indians War mean and do to them. Readers will relish this terrific saga as all's not quit on the Hudson Valley front even with no military battles for hundred of miles.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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