RAINY DAY MAN by Rita Garitano


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The miserable marriage/divorce of an alcoholic, philandering salesman and his repressed wife--as seen through the eyes, in this lugubrious closeup, of the husband, the wife, and their eleven-year-old daughter. Mike O'Connor and pregnant college student Barbara Hershey got married when they were both 19; they've had problems from the start--with Mike's drinking and roving, with Barbara's up-tightness; they moved from N.Y. to Phoenix, hoping to change their luck. But now, circa 1971, things have reached a new low. Mike is often drunk, often absent, finding pick-up sex in bar after bar. (""Hell, screwin' a stranger is more intimate than Barbara after thirteen years."") Barbara, raised by a perfectionist mother, works as a waitress, loses herself in housewifely chores, and rehashes memories--of premarital sex, of Mike's appallingly crude family. And older daughter Amy responds to this situation very much as a clinical psychologist might predict: she remains an adoring Daddy's Girl; she blames herself, her budding womanhood, for Daddy's absences; she also blames her mother, ""the woman who can never make things right""; she connects her parents' problems to her own increasing awareness of sex, a dirty secret. Then Mike leaves for good, moving in with girlfriend Gwen--while strong, competent Grammy arrives to take over the domestic reins from guiltridden, childlike Barbara. (""She can't reach within herself to cut out the evil spreading through her. Total submission to Mom's will is the only choice."") The divorce action begins, as does Amy's menstruation--feeding her guilt and shame: ""she isn't his little girl any more."" So, in her yearning for Daddy, Amy becomes the victim of a child-rapist; the rapist's suicide and Grammy's stroke soon follow. And, now understandably overwhelmed with guilt (""Oh, God, I'm sorry for making everything go wrong""), Amy makes a serious attempt at razor-blade suicide. (""Her insides are infected. Her skin must be lanced so the pus can ooze. The demons will leave if she frees them. They will drain from the eyes she slashes."") First-novelist Garitano works hard at the rotating trio of viewpoints here--Mike's foulmouthed boorishness, Barbara's numbed desperation, Amy's pathetic confusion. But, with unselective emotional/sexual detailing and no dramatic shaping, this remains more case-history than fiction: overlong, repetitious, fairly credible in its thick psychological textures yet flat and relentlessly dreary in its impact.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1985
Publisher: Norton