Written in a language few readers have heard but all will understand, She-Rain, is a lyrical love story on many levels. The most obvious is the love triangle in which protagonist Frank Locke finds himself entwined. However, there are vivid descriptions of familial love — love between mother and son, grandson and grandparents — and a love of place. The place is the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, my home.
Nearly everyone in Western North Carolina seems to appreciate its grandeur, whether they have lived here for scores of years or they are visitors motorcycling their way through the Smokies. There is something about these mountains, ever-changing and unchanging. Old-timers have a respect for the mountains, which, if not inborn, is certainly ingrained.
Michael Cogdill has beautifully captured both the atmosphere and the pace of life in Appalachia. She-Rain begins in the early 1920s, in a home where love is tainted by drug abuse, a home where the father is brutal and battering to both his son and his wife. (There is an autobiographical aspect to She-Rain, but isn’t that true of most fiction?) The family is also dogged by poverty and ignorance.
As mystified as the reader might be that young Frank Locke’s mother, Dovie, remains with her abuser, it is even scarier to consider that her family feels she should. This unfortunate you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it attitude still exists, although not as widely held as it once was. Church plays a large role in the life of Frank’s family, giving both hope and feelings of abandonment and alienation. His mother rails against the preacher who offered no safe haven to her and her son when they were in a life-threatening situation, nor would he speak to her husband about his behavior.
This is a complex story, and making it unique in its complexity is the relationship between the two women Frank loves. Told with great pathos, it suggests that no relationship is simple.
Throughout She-Rain, Cogdill incorporates great depths of emotion — love, hate, fear — but also humor and sorrow. It is not a roller-coaster ride, but rather a slow steady tour of the human heart and all its mysteries.
Reading She-Rain is not an activity to be rushed. It should be slowly savored, read and reflected upon. While the story carries the reader along, the poetry trapped in its prose supports them both.
Bottom line: Would I buy She-Rain? Yes.