Volume 90, Issue 66

Wednesday, January 22, 1997



Dark, twisted side of the cloth

The Rain Ascends
By Joy Kogawa
Paperback, $14.95, 217 pages

Some novels approach sensitive issues half-heartedly, some graze lightly over the implications and then gifted novelists such as Joy Kogawa approach topics, like child molestation at the hands of an eminent man of the cloth, with the delicacy of language and poetic insight. The Rain Ascends is a wonderful, intense read complete with biblical parallels, narrative turmoil and moral contradictions.

The Canadian novelist explores the globe of darkness that is contained within every individual – it is how that individual responds to the dark which determines one's character and extremity of one's sins. The tormented tale is recounted by Millicent, who must struggle with the sins of the father she adores. The novel itself contemplates the issue of child molestation, the result of public judgment and the Church's handling of accusations in the past. The Rain Ascends beautifully sifts the truth from the past and the sinner from the perceived saint.

Kogawa's novel is rooted in the betrayal of trust and hypocrisy of the cloth. There is little dialogue as the novel consists of reflections, reminiscences and the dismantling of an idyllic past. It is a beautifully-written novel that slowly exposes the secrets of an Anglican minister – a community leader and role model accused of sexual molestation towards his congregation and own family. The Rain Ascends is embedded in metaphor with allusions and imagery as thick as the fog that clouds Millicent's conscience and wilful ignorance.

As a middle-aged mother, Millicent is confronted with the secrets of her father's desires as she remembers certain events as a prominent Anglican family in Alberta. The tone reflects the confusion of Millicent who must handle the father she loves and the sins he has committed. Like Kogawa's first novel, Obasan, the narrative in The Rain Ascends, is lucid and poetic, demonstrating there is beauty in the depths of sorrow. It avoids anger and direct condemnation, as Millicent struggles with lies, silence and her own conscience. Placing trust in God and the Church, Millicent reveals her father's secrets so that he may face redemption while his victims find justice and peace.

Kogawa's novel draws heavily on the innocence of children, especially Millicent and the tragedy of her family, while approaching the sensitive and highly-political issue with integrity and sorrow. It is an intense and highly-engrossing read that demands patience and a refrain from judgment as Millicent draws out her denial, but finally concludes, "through the prism of prayer, the rain ascends."

–Emily Ruffell

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca