In author Lindsey Stoddard’s brimming-with-life novel, Right as Rain, white sixth-grader Rain Andrews’ mother is a neuroscientist who studies the brain, but she can’t fix her family’s broken hearts after Rain’s beloved older brother, Guthrie, is killed in a car accident. Stoddard tackles grief head-on in her moving, uplifting portrayal of learning to live and embrace life amid loss.
Determined to make a fresh start, Rain’s mom takes a new research job at Columbia University, moving the family to an apartment in Hamilton Heights and leaving behind virtually all of their belongings in the Vermont town that Rain adores. Rain’s grief-stricken dad is seriously depressed and stays in bed for much of the day, while Rain feels responsible for Guthrie’s death because she helped him sneak out of the house on that fateful night―the details of which are gradually revealed in short chapters intertwined with the main narrative. But Rain’s dad, who works in construction, has taught her that “If you take down a weight-bearing wall without setting up a system of support beams, the whole weight of the house will collapse down on you. But if you build up a strong system of support beams, you can take the weight right off.”
While Stoddard set her equally sensitive first novel, Just Like Jackie, in a small Vermont town, she excels at portraying the rich diversity of Rain’s new Latinx neighborhood, where she realizes that “even though my skin doesn’t match any skin here . . . I’m not sticking out.” Rain’s teacher is quietly understanding, and she befriends Nestor, a homeless man. She also finds support at Ms. Dacie’s place, an afterschool program that welcomes all. Rain’s main salvation is running, and before long, she becomes part of a championship relay team that brings new friendships with Amelia, who has a stutter; Ana, who has lived in poverty; and her Dominican neighbor, Frankie.
Stoddard has woven a rich cityscape and plot, and while a few threads feel a bit predictable, she doesn’t settle for easy answers as Rain and her family navigate the complexities of rebuilding a life in the midst of grief.