RAIN OR SHINE: A Family Memoir by Cyra McFadden

RAIN OR SHINE: A Family Memoir

Email this review


When McFadden was a child in the 1930's and 40's, she spent her evenings with her carousing parents in western bars, and slept (while they slept it off) in a blue 1937 Packard or in tacky motor courts. By day, the family traveled through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas to the next rodeo. Her mother, Pat Montgomery (a former showgirl and ""the toast of St. Louis"") was a daredevil trick rider; her father, Cy Taillon, was a silver-tongued, crowd-stirring rodeo announcer. Little Cyra, decked out in hand-tooled cowboy boots, boy's trousers, checkered shirt and a big, black sombrero was the darling of the circuit. If mom and dad bellowed and bloodied each other in drunken brawls or if one or the other disappeared for a frequent extramarital interlude, didn't all parents? Cyra loved the adulation lavished on her and her dashing parents by an entourage of sycophants who paid their bills and helped them out of scrapes. Roy Qualley, a sobersided traveling salesman, was the most loyal of the hangers-on; and it was he who rescued Pat and Cyra when Cydrove off into the sunset after the final marital spat. ""Old Honest Face,"" as Roy was called, married Pat and tried to turn her into an honest woman. He also tried to remold Cyra into a proper small-town miss. Pat ultimately lapsed into intermittent madness, while Cyra tried to fit into her stepfather's image, yet secretly longing for life with her swashbuckling, handsome father. Cyra's maternal aunt, Ila Mae, the family's Cassandra, kept popping in and out of their lives, carping about her baby sister's transgressions, and trying to straighten out the family's increasingly muddied situation. McFadden uses this book to exorcise the demons that ultimately made her loathe her assorted extended family. By adolescence she had begun to realize that her father, by then ""the King of the Rodeo Announcers,"" was little more than a self-centered, boot-strutting, puffed up reflection of his own celebrity, whose second wife, the color-coordinated Dorothy, was merely Cy's unpaid press agent--as well as Cyra and Pat's mortal enemy. This jagged slice of the life of an atypical American family is corroded with acid, only slightly sugared over by McFadden's final and self-serving coming to terms with her ill-sorted relatives. Cy Taillon's fans (if McFadden is correct, they are legion) may take umbrage at this portrait of a one-time larger-than-life rodeo celebrity. (Newspapers euologized him as another John Wayne, the ""epitome of Western values,"" at his death in 1980.) Most readers will wish that McFadden had portrayed her wondrously varied family not as a target for her own resentments but rather as the chaotic, three-dimensional, humanly flawed people that peep through her remorseless portrayal.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf