"The Scent of Rain and Lightning," tells the story of the misfortune that strikes the Lindner family, the richest ranchers in a failing Kansas town and the impact it has on those who survived it. It is filled with secrets and anger and grief but still manages to find a little room for love and forgiveness.
It has a powerful, sometimes almost overwhelming atmosphere that raises it above a murder mystery into an experience of the damage done by violence, lust and selfishness and the possibility of hope that can be realised only by setting hate aside.
The story is woven between the 1980's when a murder is about to take place and twenty-three years later when the man convicted of the murder is about to be released and returned home.
The first third of the book is heavy with foreboding and loss. You can see the storm coming in the first timeline and smell the pain-etched trail it will leave behind.
The Kansas landscape in which the book is set, with its vast skies and huge storms, is almost a character in the book. It drives the plot, colours the emotions and shapes the characters.
The language of the book is rich without being cloyingly lyrical. It's an excellent book to read aloud, savouring the descriptions that evoke the place and the dialogue that makes each character distinct.
I've seen comments that the ending is anticlimatic, with everything tied up just a little too neatly but I thought the ending offered quiet, credible, continuity and the unrolling of the plot was satisfying if a little less credible.
The book, a rare standalone novel from Nancy Pickard, was released in 2010. The video below is an interview with Nancy Pickard talking about how and why she wrote the book.
In 2017, the book was turned into a film (shot, for reasons that escape me, in Oklahoma)
You can see the trailer below (which contains a little more information that I'd care to have before reading the book) but which looks like an atmospheric movie.