canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


The Next Rainy Day

by Philip David Alexander
Dundurn Press, 2005

Reviewed by Michael Bryson

Philip David Alexander's debut novel, The Next Rainy Day, includes five deaths, and each plays a prominent role in the plot. The novel, however, is not a murder mystery. Death is not even the dominant element of this restrained character study, despite its prevalence. If this novel has a thematic core, that theme is male anger. The psychologists tell us that grief has four stages: denial, anger, depression, and reintegration. A return to health following grief typically requires passing through all of these stages. To pause, to get stuck Ė say in the anger stage Ė can have negative consequences. For oneself. For others.

On the surface, The Next Rainy Day is a novel about the death of a child. A ten-year-old boy walks to school alone on a cold, rainy, icy day. A car skids. The boy dies. The novel is told in two voices, representing the perspectives of the father of the child, who happens to be a policeman, and the father of the youth who was behind the wheel of the vehicle. The death of the child is the incident that connects (or, more accurately, disconnects) the two families.

The story of the father of the driver, Bert Commerford, is told in the first-person. The story of the policeman is told in the third-person. These last points may seem overly technical; however, the authorís choice to unfold the story in this way is significant. The first-person voice draws the reader closer to Commerford, while the third-person voice creates distance and a buffer of "objectivity" around the policemanís point of view. The difference is subtle, as is the significance of this choice, as the novel proceeds to its climax and conclusion.

Which this review will not give away. Except to repeat that there is more to this novel than plot, and that the meaning of events, while it may appear obvious, is often anything but.

The Next Rainy Day is a strong debut from Alexander, whose work has appeared in literary journals such as Front & Centre, The Circle Magazine, and Storyglossia. As mentioned above, this is a book with a male-focused narrative. How men deal with trauma; how men seek to resolve troubled emotions; how men attempt to find meaning in emotional ambiguity. Paraphrase any of these points and you are near the core of this novel. The Next Rainy Day could have come from the pen of Russell Banks. Think The Sweet Hereafter. Think Affliction. These are not easy books with simple plotlines or quick moral resolution. The Next Rainy Day isnít either.

Michael Bryson is the editor of The Danforth Review. 

 

 

 

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