This haunting, elegiac novel by famed novelist Joy Kogawa, author of “Obasan,” pulls us into the world and the heart of a middle-aged woman learning that her beloved but aged father, an Anglican priest, has been a pedophile with 300 male victims. What is the capacity of one human heart? Can a lifetime of her father’s familial tenderness and community good deeds co-exist with his malicious, malignant sexuality?
“The Rain Ascends” is the story of the torment of one woman’s soul told in rendering, poetic language.
Joy Kogawa and I are friends. I briefly knew her father and had his Encyclopedia Brittanicas, 1904 edition, on my shelves for many years. We shared a long-lasting writing group during the years she was writing “The Rain Ascends.” Notwithstanding that, and the historical importance of her masterwork “Obasan,” I’ve always believed “The Rain Ascends” is Kogawa’s most brilliant work.
Today, after attending a “Shut Up and Write” session at Historic Joy Kogawa House on the weekend, I picked the novel up 20 years after first reading it to find it easily measured up to my original stunned appreciation.
Until last weekend, I’d been to Kogawa House only once before, but, unable to tolerate the fact that Joy’s dad had lived and likely abused children there, I left quickly; this visit I stayed and wrote about the feelings that arose in me as someone well acquainted with the harms of child rape.
I understand Joy Kogawa has revised “The Rain Ascends” since the edition was published.
Joy Kogawa has since spoken to the press and her community about her father’s pedophilia. The Anglican Church, this year, offered an apology to the victims of his many crimes.