Tina Jordan
January 23, 2015 AT 05:00 AM EST

Leaving Before the Rains Come

Current Status
In Season
Alexandra Fuller
The Penguin Press

We gave it an A

I’ve loved Alexandra Fuller’s other books, particularly Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, a rich, marvelous memoir brimming with details of her romantic Rhodesian upbringing, and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, which traced her mother’s history. But Leaving Before the Rains Come, the story of her crumbling marriage, is even better than those two books, one of the gutsiest memoirs I’ve ever read. And the writing—oh my God, the writing. It’s more than a little daunting to review a book so gorgeously wrought that you stop, time and again, just to marvel at the language—”fear shattering through us like buckshot,” ”the tiny prickling explosions of what I imagined to be parasites in my blood.”

Fuller, born in Britain and raised in Africa by wildly eccentric parents, fell for Charlie in large part because he was everything she was not—ordered, deliberate, cautious. (And because ”he looked good on a horse.”) But as Fuller discovered, trading in the chaos of life in Africa for a more measured and mannered existence in America didn’t make her happy. The very security she thought she craved was, instead, stifling her. As she unwinds her story slowly, elegantly, threading it through with tales of her childhood, she realizes she’s forgotten some important lessons from her larger-than-life father, whose craving for impulsivity has always matched her own. Life ”isn’t supposed to be easy,” he reminds her at one point. ”Easy is just another way of knowing you aren’t doing much in the way of your life.” A

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