Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
She-Rain is like a gem that’s been pulled out of a pigsty. It contains some of the most eloquent prose and language since Shakespeare. Some will see elements of Pat Conroy’s writing that takes place in the Carolinas and Rick Bragg’s memoir of growing up in Alabama, though Mr. Cogdill’s character’s are more inclined to speak with a natural rhythm and cadence, which invites readers to be privileged to Frankie Locke’s heart and mind, as he grows up with his abusive addicted father and eventually finds solace, understanding and new ways to live from Mary Lizabeth and Sophia, who become his loves, friends and guardian angels.
There is no need to keep all of the author’s words wrapped tightly in secret between the book’s pages, though there are many secrets that come to light as the story unfolds. Here are a few lines that catch your breath and lavish you with voice, metaphor and nuance.
“Creases of his face flowed with streams of it like slug trail, easing off his chin.”
“In the throes of a drunk, or even the craving of one, his manners seldom rose above a steers’.”
“In the squeal of mosquitoes and flies drawn to sweat, I took in one final look at the vista from Granny’s pocket.”
“The day came so cold the air felt breakable.”
When Mary asks Frankie to dance, she says, “My dearest Mr. Locke, reckon I can borrow your frame for this struggle?”
Concerning feelings of shame for past deeds, Sophia tells Frankie, “I don’t see a solitary cause for disgrace. What shames you, from now on, will be up to you.”
The subtitle of She-Rain is A Story of Hope. It is really a story of redemption and courage to step into the unknown and break expectations and taboos. It is also about grief and loss and what we do with its tailings. The people involved in She-Rain seem so honest and real; they are almost palpable. In the acknowledgments section, the author states that some of the characters in the book are based on people he has known, loved and appreciated throughout his life. It would not be surprising to learn one day that the entire story and the incidents and experiences portrayed, were all based on actual events that took place in real time.
As you get to know Frankie, Mary Lizabeth, Sophia and their families and circumstances, you take a liking to them and find your self hoping, against all odds, for the best. Thus, are the abilities of Mr. Cogdill to shine a light on humanities worst and best traits with words so delicious you’ll want to have them for every meal. The last portion of the book found this reader sitting on their old torn up coach, cat underhand, with tears of sadness and joy streaming down his cheeks like a babe who’d been lost for dead in the woods and just been returned to loving arms.