House of Rain
by Greg F. Gifune
It isn't all that often I find a book with an elderly person as the protagonist. So, right up front, I was interested in reading Greg Gifune's new novella, House of Rain.
Gordon Cole finds himself an old man isolated in a city he longer understands, long removed from his time in the Vietnam War, and grieving the recent death of his wife. The streets seem to grow more violent every day, as he witnesses the brutal beating of a homeless man by a group of teen boys, from the window of his tiny apartment. With the violence, comes the rain, and with the rain comes a shadow, which stalks Gordon as he wanders the rain-slicked streets.
The atmosphere is palpable, even in the quiet moments, with Gordon's hold on reality being questioned as he feels a specter from his past lurking in the shadows. It all weighs on his nerves and his conscience, with one particularly engrossing scene involving him attending a grief counseling group session. The tension in that one inches with each paragraph until Gordon is unsure which way is up.
Gifune paints with a palette of bleak colors to create Gordon's world. The horror comes in shifting silhouettes, like billowing smoke that gets into your nostrils while you read. For such a short novel, with a sparse cast of characters, the story feels grand in some regard. There were moments, specifically Gordon's consternation over the young thugs in his neighborhood, that reminded me of the really good Michael Caine film, Harry Brown, which dealt with similar subject matter in a more hard-bitten and angry approach. I wondered if House of Rain ran the risk of feeling too familiar, having seen that movie, but the early concerns were set at ease in due course.
Regret, remorse, loneliness, and revenge are just of few of the facets explored in this little novel. Each handled with the care of a very skilled storyteller.
I have four more of Greg Gifune's books on my to-be-read pile. Having read this one, I'm really looking forward to the rest of them.