Music as Medicine

Love and Rain

A review of Love and Rain by Carmela Circelli

Published on March 14, 2024

“Life is an adventure of our own design, intersected by fate and a series of lucky and unlucky accidents.” Wise words by rock poet Patti Smith serve as an epigraph for Carmela Circelli’s debut novel, a psychological, philosophical, and often poetic page-turner thrumming with musical mentions. References to Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Lhasa de Sela, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and others loop through Love and Rain, conjuring a dusky coffeehouse vibe as this intergenerational story stretches back and forth across time, cultures, and continents, inviting readers to suss out a family secret steeped in dark dissonance. 

Love and Rain
Carmela Circelli

Guernica Editions

Told from three women’s viewpoints, the story is divided into four long chapters, the first and last narrated by Chiara, whose name (meaning “clear” in Italian) provides a crystalline clue to her true origins, ironically concealed by her well-meaning parents. Born in Montreal, Chiara has lived in Toronto since the early ’80s, when her English-speaking family left Quebec to avoid “the political situation.” By 2013, the emotionally unavailable thirty-something-year-old is wrapping up her MA in Philosophy at York when she starts dating Daniel, who tests her usual coolness. “It was always easy before. I would just lose interest, feel no obligation or commitment,” she notes, having sabotaged all previous relationships before they got serious. 

One can almost hear Circelli’s experience as a psychotherapist and philosophy professor humming like backing vocals, supporting Chiara’s character arc. Unyielding to the vulnerability required for emotional intimacy, Chiara resists when Daniel slips past her barriers, triggering a crisis that convinces her to consult a therapist. With the help of her psychoanalyst, she remembers how, even as a child, she never cried, and begins to investigate “the thing,” a buried familial trauma described as: “An inner storm tearing through my clear blue detachment, like a hurricane.” 

In the second chapter, narrator Francesca guides readers back to the ’60s and ’70s, and from Montreal to Rome, recalling the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) and the Red Brigades in Italy. Here, we perceive Quebec nationalism through the eyes of southern Italian immigrants, and tune in to the passions of two sisters struggling to self-actualize within a dysfunctional family. In the lead-up to a tragic accident, one finds her raison d’être as a gifted singer-songwriter; in the aftermath, the other projects the personal outward, attempting to restore order through political rebellion. 

Spanning the mid-’80s through the early 2000s, the third chapter features a tiny seaside house on the coast of Amalfi, threatened by rising waters. The external reality of climate-related storms (an underlying theme throughout the novel) echoes the characters’ emotional overwhelm and catharsis, as narrator Cassandra, a nurse and herbalist, revives her grandmother’s traditional witchy wisdom, treating locals with teas, potions, and tarot card readings.

Love and Rain tackles a broad range of topics, weaving political, historical, and even magical tones into the mix. While suspense is successfully built upon tracing “the thing” back to its source, occasionally there is a tendency to summarize events for the purpose of conveying values. When Francesca distills her experience with “revolutionary justice,” for example, her interior monologue is imbued with lessons learned. In the final chapter, one also senses a slight rush to resolve the trauma haunting Chiara’s unconscious in order to end, rather romantically, on a positive note. 

Yet, overall, this is an engaging novel that purrs with the restorative powers of beauty and music. Thanks to a captivating circle of protagonists, whose lives are often linked through synchronicity, we’re reminded that beauty, as Francesca reasons, is “as necessary as air and water, and sometimes, the only antidote to the terrors and horrors of life.” Like a musical balm, Love and Rain is for anyone who’s ever loved deeply and not been loved back, but who dares to sing again to the beat of a healing heart.mRb

Kimberly Bourgeois  is a Montreal-based writer/singer-songwriter. Visit her at for news about her music and writing projects.



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