There is a hazy quality to Rain Village that disguises the harsher aspects of Tessa’s world. Everything from her familial relationships to her time at the circus is impressionistic. Readers get the idea of what happens without having to deal with exacting details. It is very much a coping mechanism for Tessa that spills over into the rest of the novel, one that causes the novel to be more picturesque than it really should be given everything that happens to her over the course of her childhood. Still, the dream-like quality of the narrative works well given the larger-than-life personality of Mary and the fantastic aspects of the circus. There is poetry to the prose that beautifies the imagery and events, making this coming-of-age story even more special.
Tessa is an amazing girl. While the psychological damage done to her by the verbal and physical abuse heaped on her by her family is great indeed and an obvious aspect of her character, she does not understand what it means to give in to despair. She risks her body and her life not only to escape the pain of her childhood but also to prove to herself that she is more than her outward appearance. It is both admirable and painful to watch her tear herself to pieces, literally and figuratively, in order to heal.
The psychology behind Rain Village is intriguing. Not only does Tessa harbor scars from her past, Mary does as well. The mystery behind Mary’s scars is what fuels Tessa and yet prevents her from moving on with her life. In many ways, Mary’s presence in her life is just as damaging to Tessa’s psyche as her father’s physical and mother’s verbal abuse for the simple fact that Tessa cannot let Mary rest in peace. She cannot move forward with her life as a wife and star performer because she is still stuck in the past with Mary – the one person who is most responsible for her rescue. It is an unexpected twist in what appears to be a fairly straightforward story.
Rain Village at its heart is a very simple story about a girl who overcomes adversity through her own tenacity and the guidance of an amazing and eclectic woman. Underneath its surface though lies a morass of psychological and spiritual complications that drive Tessa’s determination and yet cause her growth to halt. It is fascinating take on the nature versus nurture debate of child-rearing, but most importantly, it is a beautiful story about the power of love.