An iconic rendering of middle-class domestic disaffection and marital discord in the early 1970s, Sudden Rain will also pique reader interest due to its unusual publication story. Its reclusive author, Maritta Wolff, rose to early fame after publishing her first novel in 1941 at age 22 and then writing several bestsellers. She completed Sudden Rain three decades ago but, due to a dispute with her publisher, hid it in her refrigerator where it remained undiscovered until her recent death. The long-lost novel follows five interconnected Los Angeles couples navigating the rocky terrain of their marriages over the course of a life-altering weekend. Tom and Nedith's 30-year marriage was crumbling even before Tom announced he was leaving her for another woman. Their son's marriage simultaneously combusts after less than a year. Meanwhile, their neighbor Cynny discovers she was merely deluding herself into domestic bliss after an eye-opening conversation with her friend Nan, who voices the discontent and emptiness that all the wives feel. Impulsively, Cynny falls for Mick, a divorced father battling his own demons after a 20-year absence from his ex-wife and daughter. The palpable tension in these lives of quiet desperation reaches a crescendo as the novel hurtles toward an unexpectedly violent denouement. Painting a bleak portrait of domestic strife and disillusionment, Sudden Rain peels back the resentments and dissatisfaction that often simmered beneath the surface of traditional family structures during that generation of upheaval. Cracks were appearing at the seams of the roles that defined women as homemakers and men as breadwinners, leading to mutual disappointments and a chasm bridgeable only through a cocktail-fueled haze. The novel's sprawling cast is initially a challenge to keep straight, but once established, the characters are so vividly portrayed they seem impossibly real. Contributing to this powerful realism is the dialogue-intensive narrative, driven by frenetic bursts of conversation that provide catharsis for the characters as well as windows into their souls. Sudden Rain deals frankly with issues of marital isolation, dissatisfaction and compromise that are still relevant today, and its central question resonates as much now as it did then just what does it take to make a marriage work?

comments powered by Disqus