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Review: Before the Rain by Luisita López Torregrosa

Review: Before the Rain by Luisita López TorregrosaTitle: Before the Rain: A Memoir of Love & Revolution
Author: Luisita López Torregrosa (Website)
Format: Hardcover
Length: 240 pages
Genre(s): Memoir, Nonfiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - August 7, 2012
Source: publisher / TLC Book Tours

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(I received this book from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)

Summary:
Before the Rain tells the story of love unexpected, its fragile bonds and subtle perils. As a newspaper editor in the '80s, Luisita Torregrosa lived her career. Enter Elizabeth, a striking, reserved, and elusive writer with whom Torregrosa falls deeply in love. Their story--irresistible romance, overlapping ambitions, and fragile union--unfolds as the narrative shifts to the Philippines and the fall of Ferdinand Marcos. There, on that beautiful, troubled island nation, the couple create a world of their own, while covering political chaos and bloody upheaval. What was effortless abroad becomes less idyllic when they return to the United States, and their ending becomes as surprising and revealing as their beginning. Torregrosa captures the way love transforms those who experience it for an unforgettable, but often too brief, time.

(from the inside flap)

Before I get into what I thought of the content of Before the Rain, I’d like to say that I love the cover of this book. I don’t usually highlight cover art in my reviews, but I think this cover art is gorgeous. The cover itself is either something other than paper, or paper with some kind of coating, and it has a crosshatch texture to it that I also love. I just had to mention all of that.

Onward.

It’s the 1980s. Luisita and Elizabeth first meet when they work for the same newspaper–Luisita as an editor, and Elizabeth as a reporter. Elizabeth is newly married and Luisita is in a relationship of her own. Months later, after Luisita goes through a bad break-up, she and Elizabeth start talking more and flirting a bit. Then things get more serious. When Elizabeth is assigned to the Philippines to cover the revolution that will run Marcos out of the country and put Aquino in power, Luisita decides to take a leave of absence from her job and join Elizabeth. So begins their rather whirlwind relationship, which ultimately ends in heartbreak after years of routine ups and downs.

Torregrosa’s descriptions of the revolution in the Philippines and the many landscapes she and Elizabeth experience are great. She writes like a journalist and her detailed descriptions make those places and experiences come to life. The romance in this book is best felt when Torregrosa talks about her love of tropical places–especially the Philippines–and I think the “love” in the title is a reference not only to her relationship with Elizabeth, but also her relationship to the Philippines. Additionally, I think Torregrosa’s love of the Philippines is more than a love for a beautiful island and warm weather: it’s also the place in which she and Elizabeth were happiest, with each other and with themselves. Her time in the Philippines, as well as her other travels and experiences as a writer, were my favorite parts of Before the Rain.

Writing like a journalist has its pitfalls, though. While she writes passionately about her life as a writer at a time when there were some major things going on in the world to write about, she is a bit standoffish with the details about her relationship with Elizabeth. It is obvious that she had (and continues to have) some very strong feelings for this woman whom she spent many years of her life with, but I didn’t feel it like I think she intended me to. I’m not saying that Torregrosa should have provided more details about a relationship that she may want to keep private, and I don’t think her intention was to tell all. I respect her wish to keep some things to herself and (probably) protect Elizabeth’s privacy, as well. I’m sure readers are expected to read between the lines. Unfortunately, though, this made their relationship a bit abstruse, and I may have gotten the wrong ideas about it. Their love comes across more like obsession, routine, a fear of being lonely, and a fear of change. The actual relationship feels very abstract and distant. For this reason, it was hard for me to connect with Torregrosa (and their relationship) until the end when she describes what their separation did to her psychologically and emotionally.

That doesn’t mean that Before the Rain is a bad book or that it’s not worth reading, though. Torregrosa is a good writer, and Before the Rain is a great look at what it was like to be a journalist in the ’80s. It’s worth reading for the travel and revolution parts alone. Although I may not have felt the love between Torregrosa and Elizabeth as I think Torregrosa intended I should, she did do a good job showing how love and certain types of relationships–as well as their endings–can transform a person in good and bad ways.

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Leah September 10, 2012, 9:36 pm

    This sounds really good. Reading the “inside flap” copy actually made me forget this is a memoir; the story sounds so much like something you might find in a novel. I’m not too put off by your disappointment with how the relationship is portrayed (I’m actually not a big fan of romance in my books), and the descriptions of travel and revolution sound amazing.

    • Heather September 10, 2012, 9:39 pm

      I’m not a big fan of romance, either. It was more that their relationship just felt like a good friendship, so it was hard for me to connect with their issues. Does that make sense?

      Regardless, I enjoyed the book–I liked reading about their lives as journalists.

      • Leah September 10, 2012, 9:42 pm

        That makes sense :)

  • RebeccaScaglione September 12, 2012, 12:10 pm

    I have to say that the first thing I noticed was the cover, and I think it’s so sophisticated, old fashioned, but gorgeous at the same time!

    Not sure if I would pick it up to read, but it sounds interesting!

  • Heather J. @ TLC September 14, 2012, 2:25 pm

    I’m glad you talked about the feel of the cover. I love a when a book feels special to hold, and that of course isn’t apparent from reading most reviews.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

  • bwithbooks September 15, 2012, 11:15 am

    Now I have to enter this into my bookshelf…

  • Trish September 17, 2012, 1:55 pm

    Yup, the cover art is gorgeous and would lead me to pick it up if I were at the store. Isn’t it interesting how what is omitted can sometimes be more part of your reaction to a book than what was included? Either that or hoping for a part of the story that just isn’t. Too bad about the relationship details but glad you enjoyed it anyway.

  • Trish September 17, 2012, 1:56 pm

    Also–holler at me when you read Wilderness Tips next year. I’ve had that one on my shelf for way too long. (just saw your Atwood schedule in sidebar)

    • Heather September 17, 2012, 3:01 pm

      Okay! I’ll do that.

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