A vivid, gripping, emotional, and addictive read, Sudden Rain is also a rare and valuable portrait of an era: the long-lost final manuscript of Maritta Wolff—the author who, at the age of twenty-two, published what Sinclair Lewis deemed "the most important novel of the year," Whistle Stop (1941).
Hailed by Entertainment Weekly as "the Nixon-era precursor to Tom Perrotta's acclaimed novel, Little Children" this is a compelling drama that offers great insight into the nature of marriage -- both then and now.
Now that Sudden Rain has come out of its hiding place -- in Wolff's refrigerator, found after her death -- it remains gloriously frozen in time. Set in the fall of 1972, the novel perfectly captures, with expansive emotion and cinematic detail, the domestic trends of three generations of middle-class couples living in suburban Los Angeles. A brilliant portrait of its burgeoning era, Sudden Rain also offers striking cultural commentary on our everyday notions of love and marriage; individuality, equality, and community; and the promise and pursuit of the American Dream.
The author of six previous novels, Wolff (1918 2002) hid this one, her seventh, in her refrigerator for 30 years. And it does feel frozen in time, a brilliant, noirish cultural commentary on upheaval in American marriage and politics, circa 1970. From the novel's first scene a tense tour of a Los Angeles divorce court, where a stressed housewife mulls monogamy and stumbles into a mystery in the ladies' room it's clear the reader is in the hands of a philosopher who can spin the heck out of a story, too. Over a four-day weekend and 400-some pages, the author brings a half-dozen Southern California families to the boiling point, calling on the forces of nature (human and elemental) to portray the trouble she sees brewing in suburbia. And trouble much of it deadly is oozing out everywhere, from the cracks and chasms that have appeared between husbands and wives, parents and children, humans and planet. Wolff weaves the era's social upheaval into each foreboding page, but it's her devastating insight into what people say and do when they're disappointed with each other that makes this book a page-turner. The author was only 22 when she first made readers ache for badly behaved lovers and their country, both at a critical crossroads in 1941's Whistle Stop. Wolff wrote this novel with 30 more years, two marriages and motherhood under her belt. Her experience shows, in all the right ways.