Gordon Cole, Viet Nam vet and recent widower, witnesses the savage beating of a homeless man—a catalyst for Gordon’s coming encounter with his own violent past. Aging and nearly broke, Gordon wanders the streets of an urban nightmare, confined by a never-ending rain. Are the whispers and glimpses of horror real? What about the angelic singing in the distance? Gordon wrestles with past and present sins while unfolding a mystery. What happened with the woman he met in a bar fifty years earlier? What part did those events play in his marriage?
Gordon’s best friend Harry tries to help, but Gordon might well be insane. Or damned.
Greg F. Gifune’s House of Rain (DarkFuse, 2013) is a novella, one of the most artful, brilliant pieces of fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Let me state this up front—Gifune is an incredible writer. House of Rain is ,by turns, heartbreaking, frightening and truly disturbing.
There are two narratives at play in the tale—the external story (the plot) and the internal story (the character arc). Gordon doesn’t take care of himself. He grieves for his loving wife Katy. And he smokes too much dope. Gordon’s external story begins to blur with his internal one, until Gordon is unable to reliably sort out the difference between what is real and what is surreal.
Though the plot races like a trip hammer, I found myself more engrossed in what the story’s events meant for Gordon Cole. The level of characterization in the story was a dark joy, allowing Gifune to pack each moment of this short tale with doubled and tripled meaning.
One warning—House of Rain is open-ended. Those readers who demand a neat conclusion to a tale might be frustrated. I have my own interpretation of the ending—the result of a close second reading. (Yes, I read the book twice.) Released from the tyranny of “what happened,” I was able to focus on “what it meant.” And I’ll be reading this story again. I can’t think of a greater compliment to offer a writer. (Five stars out of five)