Feature

Novel of the week: Father of the Rain by Lily King

King explores "the attraction of martyrdom" with her story of a daughter's self-destructive devotion to her charming but erratic father.

(Atlantic Monthly Press, $24)

Lily King’s third novel is a “brilliant exploration of the attraction of martyrdom,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. The story of an earnest young woman and the charming but erratic father she believes needs saving, it offers rare insight into the challenges of trying to rescue a person who’s ruining your life. The father, Gardiner Amory, is an “arresting character”—a country-club alcoholic whose natural magnetism “can turn in an instant from attractive to repulsive.” We witness the narrator’s heartbreak when, at age 11, her parents’ separation tears her away from this mercurial man. That makes her self-destructive devotion to him in later years feel “all the more tragic.” One of this novel’s wonders is that it allows us to ask whether, ultimately, Gardiner even needs saving, said Liesl Schillinger in The New York Times. He may be grossly flawed, but he gets by. “Knowingly, forgivingly,” King shows us why his daughter “can’t butt out” but also why she should.

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