A story within a story, both surpassingly weird. The larger story is told by Evelyn, 13, who spends her days caring for her baby brother and wandering the ""broken rooms"" of a huge abandoned house in an unspecified desert, visited with precise regularity by a violent monthly storm. (That a place where it rains torrentially for several days a month is called a desert is just one example of the arbitrary and illogical caprice that governs this surrealistic first novel.) Evelyn's mother fled here after her husband abandoned the family; quite mad, she spends her waking hours trying to fabricate a raincoat that will withstand the storm's fury. The embedded story is a manuscript, by Evelyn's father, about a boy who receives a mysterious letter saying that he must kiss a whale--or perhaps (the handwriting is ambiguous) that he must kill a whale. Somehow, Evelyn's discovery of this unfinished story helps her accept her father's departure and forgive her mother for being crazy and neglectful, and she decides to write her own more-or-less hopeful ending. Evelyn's mother gives up her obsession with the Ultimate Raincoat, and the family moves back to a place where the weather is normal. A How-I-Came-To-Terms-With-My-Parents-Even-Though-They-Let-Me-Down story that could use less symbolism and more sense.