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Review: Author explores failure of her marriage

March 2, 2015

“Leaving Before the Rains Come” (Penguin Press), by Alexandra Fuller

In her new memoir, Alexandra Fuller reveals that she wrote nine novels before her agent said her writing was solid but she lacked a compelling story to tell. Fuller responded by looking inward and penning a series of searing portraits about her life, family and growing up in 1970s Rhodesia, a nation at the boundaries of war in southern Africa.

Her latest book, “Leaving Before the Rains Come,” is as cleverly titled as its predecessors, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood” and “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.”

This time, Fuller examines falling in love, marrying and moving with her husband to the United States. Her writing — spare, yet complex; simple, yet brimming with emotion — is as gorgeous as ever. Fuller, most assuredly, elevates memoir to a true literary art. Here, she displays the rare skill of illuminating the romantic, rose-tinged days of love long after it’s gone. Even the description of her 20-year marriage’s undoing is poetic: “We couldn’t save our marriage. Not with all the power in the world. The knot had tightened and loosened, and for the last time, it had untied. I do. We did. It was done.”

Despite its strength and charm, Fuller’s new memoir lacks the cohesiveness of her two earlier books. She wades a bit too far into her husband’s family history and her own glimpse at madness gets short shrift.

However, what Fuller does best here is describe falling in and out of love — with all its messiness, fears and insecurities.

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