Rainbow Gardens: some wars never end
by James Malone
On his web page, James Malone tells the story of how his book cover was created; it’s a fascinating look at the process of trial and error that results in our first impression of any book. Mr. Malone is about to take you on a 700-page romp through an adventure story the likes of which you seldom find.
I recommend starting with the cover:
Rainbow Gardens has been described as a “WWII Historical Fantasy.”
I have to admit that I couldn’t quite figure out what that might be, but whatever it is–and the author admits he’s not quite sure, either–I was not prepared for trolls.
Chapter One is titled “Long Trolls’ Journey Into Night: 1945,” which I suppose covers both the Fantasy and WWII. And it begins with what will be the chapter’s fractured refrain:
Oh say, can you see?,
as a character named Franco struggles along a mountain trail, anticipating “the Divine Wind” that was forecast by an “old Pueblo” whose name is Popay.
By the rocket’s red glare,
“Now he sees it–a shaft of light bursting crimson into the night sky, burning through the clouds and splashing them a dark pink. . .the light bathes his sunglasses in a strawberry paste.”
With me so far? Trolls, a Divine Wind, and an Old Pueblo.
Then the narrator dangles a clue that things might be even stranger than old Pueblos and Divine Winds, because this Franco character is suddenly afraid that “the sons of Adam” have “found our cave.” We suspect almost immediately that the sons of Adam could be us.
The Bomb bursting in air,
“Before he can finish, a searing light, a rampaging gas-oven light turns the dark to dawn. It is an x-ray light and the trolls ooh and ahh at the sight of their neighbors’ purple neon skeletons.”
This too-obvious “tell” so early in the novel suggests something more ahead than 700 pages of plot-driven narrative.
Before I take you any further into this great romp of a book–exciting, odd, funny, full of suspense, a page-turner, a beach read, popular fiction at its liveliest–it’s only fair to warn you that there are wheels within wheels. And Mr. Malone hasn’t actually hidden them.
Scroll down a bit on the author’s Blog and you’ll find a section called, simply, “Why I Wrote Rainbow Gardens,” which begins,
“This story is inspired by a Japanese immigrant to America named Harry ‘Taiju’ Hayashi. In the 1930’s Harry built North Dakota’s first motel in Carrington, and he named it ‘Rainbow Gardens.’ He did quite well for himself until the outbreak of war, when he was interned for the duration at Fort Lincoln.”
James Malone, whose father served in the Pacific during World War II, has–it turns out–written a novel about forgiveness. James Malone, impressed by his father’s willingness to “forgive his former enemies,” thought long and hard about the power of forgiveness and about our “competitive, tribal urge to survive” which blocks the way to the redemptive power of forgiving and being forgiven. James Malone has written the unlikeliest novel whose “underlying message,” according to his editor, is that “we all bear the mark of Cain. . .and the people we marginalize–the trolls of our society–are no worse nor better than us, because we all seek. . .redemption.”
James Malone has–it turns out–written a novel about redemption.
But trolls! I’m just warning you.
I picked up Rainbow Gardens, both anticipating and–forgive me, James–dreading 700 pages of the latest fantasy. It wasn’t long before I knew I’d signed on for something else.
You are going to enjoy Rainbow Gardens, but you won’t get off that easy. On the final page of the first chapter of Malone’s novel,
“When night falls, it’s time for homecoming. . .Tonight we head for the Rainbow.”
That our trolls are still there. . .
The temptation is great to throw caution to the winds, post a SPOILER ALERT, and tell all. The plot is complex, woven through with Malone’s knowledge of the Bible as well as twentieth-century history. Take, for example, well over halfway through the book, on what my Kindle assures me is “6 hrs 48 mins left in book”:
“And it came to pass that in the years after the Great Flood, Greco and Casandra lived a long and fruitful life, so long as they remembered to come in and out of the sun. Cassandra bore many children, but without the sun’s nourishing rays they proved sickly and slow to grow.”
World War II. History. Fantasy. The Book of Genesis.
Rainbow Gardens in a nutshell: Entertaining. Thought-provoking. Well-researched. Ambitious.
James Malone has had a long career in writing, from senior writer at a mid-size advertising agency to senior communications and public affairs positions in federal and state agencies.
The son of a career U.S. Navy officer and a Vietnam Era veteran himself, James is a child of the Cold War. He grew up in cities around the world, including New York, San Diego, Yokohama, London, Paris and Stuttgart. He has moved often since then and has hung his hat in places such as Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Washington.
Besides writing, his interests include collecting first editions and soccer, which he learned from the English neighbor kids when he lived in London. He was also a competitive sailor for a number of years, racing a 20 foot C-Scow, an inland lakes boat.
He currently resides in Wisconsin with his wife and two daughters, who take turns trying to teach him the Zen of Volleyball.
And somewhere along the way, James Malone wrote a novel about trolls, about our worst and our best selves, about moving–every one of us–toward forgiveness, toward redemption, toward salvation–and about finding them in the unlikeliest places: in the midst of sleeping babies and dust motes, pelicans and goldfish and old men fishing at the edges of ponds.
James Malone has written a novel in which he dares to suggest that we might even find what we’re looking for at a motel called Rainbow Gardens.
The only political satire in Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is the fact of Lydia herself, wife of a Union soldier who came to Virginia to make war and returned to make his fortune. Lydia, who went out into the streets of this southern city where her husband had shed blood, to bind up the wounds of all sorts inflicted on its women. Find a copy of this book for yourself in the new year.