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Red Rain Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 6, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Murkoff's distinctive second novel (after the much acclaimed Waterborne) spans five months in 1864 as Dr. William Harp returns to his Hudson Valley hometown after 10 years on a California expedition. With the nation at war and many locals in various states of decline, the doctor doesn't have much idle time. Among the lives that will intersect are mischievous, hard-drinking 13-year-old Coley Hinds, who is eternally torn between right and wrong; retired shipping captain Mickey Blessing; and Mickey's sister, Jane, who pines for her MIA soldier husband, Frank. A narrative lynchpin comes in the discovery of a mastodon skeleton, leading Will to purchase the land where it's found and to scavenge for other remains. Meanwhile, the hushed death of a local woman, violence involving Mickey and a local troublemaker, and jealousy of Will's notoriety for the skeleton he's begun reconstructing on his land all make for a heady denouement. The townsfolks' elaborately described machinations have a tendency to move the narrative in stops and starts, but that's about the only flaw in this dense, deliberate, and lush saga that will surely appeal to readers who appreciate brawny historicals. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Set in five months in 1864 in the Hudson River Valley, Murkoff's second novel (after Waterborne, 2004) vividly captures the life of the time, the damage done by war, and the ruthlessness of greed. After serving as a doctor in the army and surviving the Shoshone campaign in Utah, Will Harp returns to claim his family homestead in Rondout, guilt-ridden about his actions in the heat of battle and about lack of contact with his father before he died. Will finds an adversary in Mickey Blessing, the charmingly amoral hired muscle of a powerful businessman who needs Will's land to fulfill his dream. Their lives intersect with teenage orphan Coley Hind, who switches allegiance between the two men. This is less focused than Waterborne, which centered on the building of Boulder Dam; instead, it's a sprawling, meandering novel, chock-full of sensory detail that is sometimes painfully acute—as in portraying grief when a loved one is lost in war—and scattered with flashbacks to fill in backstories. Plot matters less here than evocation of time and place, and Murkoff is a master at that. --Michele Leber
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,350,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rather than a step by step chronology of historical events, Bruce Murkoff's novel, "Red Rain," skips about episodes, vignettes of his many characters, protagonists, farmers, soldiers, urban merchants, and sailors. In its pages, characters and their antecedents are all seen from the earliest days of the European exploration of the continent through to the explosive and devastating American Civil War.

Author Murkoff's prose is artfully done, sometimes poetically breathtaking, e.g., "Will raised his arm and pointed to the east. Arthur followed the line of his finger to an opening in the sky above the pine trees, and there he saw the full moon being shunted through a riffle of gray clouds. It was shiny and fat, playing through the drifting clouds like a silver dollar in a magician's fingers."

Author Murkoff also spares us the Hollywood romanticized vision of the new world. "Red Rain" is as down and dirty as one can get - roving Irish gangs preying on equally impoverished emigrants in New York, gunmen taking lives of white settlers, and incredible violence on both sides of the new settlers vs. indigenous peoples' conflict. All of it spiced with language "not suitable for those under 12 years old." Truth is, when all's said and done, that must have been the way it was and Murkoff tells it like it was.

His use of language both colorful and poetic, makes us see things in new, unforgettable ways, e. g., "Gray clouds crowned the late afternoon sky, butting up against the air began to bristle with the prospect of a storm. . . ."

Other adventures in this novel include the discovery of a prehistoric mastodon, the largest and most perfect example ever uncovered in North America and the lure of the west on the trail of 49ers' gold.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book, enjoyed in very much. Especially, as I used to live in upstate New York, and am very familiar with all the Hudson River places mentioned in the book.

Wonderful characters, fascinating plot and as was noted in an another review, I was very sorry when it ended.

The only reason I did not give it five stars is a rather strange and annoying thing. Within each chapter there are several sections. Each is about another of the characters in the book, but far more often than necessary, he fails to identify which one until several pages pass. This breaks what is a superb flow of the story rich with many fascinating people. Too bad.
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By A Customer on July 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1864 after spending the last decade as part of the cavalry in California fighting against Indians, Dr. William Harp returns home to his Rondout, New York farm depressed over the atrocities he witnessed. Although the Hudson Valley is far from the battlefields, William quickly realizes his neighbors are impacted by the men at war. Dr. Harp is very concerned with the wellbeing of those left behind.

Thirteen years old Coley Hinds is becoming a drunkard. Jane Blessing fears for the life of her spouse Frank Quinn, missing in action and presumed dead. Her brother Mickey Blessing retired from shipping, but increasingly turns violent as an enforcer for businessman Harry Grieves; Mickey mentors Coley on how to enforce a business deal. Finally a local woman has been murdered, but no one wants to talk about it as Will begins to find a mastodon's skeletal remains one bone at a time.

This is a deep historical tale that looks closely on the impact of war on those far from the front, but affected either by loved ones in uniform or the economic shock. The ensemble cast is fully developed to that each brings to life what the Civil War and the Indians War mean and do to them. Readers will relish this terrific saga as all's not quit on the Hudson Valley front even with no military battles for hundred of miles.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
This was a fantastic book set in 1864, but the Civil War is background, intruding in the lives of characters like a fog of malice. Set in a Hudson river town growing rich off the war, with colorful and real characters, Irish immigrants, Dutch businessmen , free Blacks, veterans of the Indian wars out west, all drawn together for good or bad because of the discovery of a Mastoden skeleton with a murderous mountain lion thrown in with the violence of a Country coming to terms with itself. At first I was put off by the description on the book flap, what a mistake , this ranks up there with the best historical novels that I've read.
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