Theo, a young Rwandan boy fleeing his country’s genocide, arrives in Dublin, penniless, alone and afraid. Still haunted by a traumatic memory in which his father committed a murderous act of violence, he struggles to find his place in the foreign city.
Plagued by his past, Theo is gradually drawn deeper into the world of Dublin’s feared criminal gangs. But a chance encounter in a restaurant with Deirdre offers him a lifeline.
Theo and Deirdre’s tender friendship is however soon threatened by tragedy. Can they confront their addictions to carve a future out of the catastrophe that engulfs both their lives?
It took me a little while to get into this novel, but after a slow start, I’m glad I persevered.
Rain Falls on Everyone follows a group of disparate characters who are more connected than they initially realise. Theo has always been haunted by the genocide he witnessed in Rwanda and his own role in it. Despite his good grades and passion for Irish poetry, after school he goes off the rails, plagued by guilt, and ends up dealing drugs for one of Dublin’s gangs.
He meets Deirdre at work in the kitchen of a local hotel, where they wash dishes, sharing stories of their lives just to get through the monotonous shifts. A trained nurse, Deirdre has her own troubles, thanks to a violent husband and a teenage daughter who has taken up with an unsuitable older boyfriend.
Both characters are stuck in unhappy situations and blame themselves for ending up there. They are dissatisfied with their lives and know they could have done something better. Although they are unlikely friends, they somehow manage to find solace in each other and a series of shocking events force them both to re-evaluate their lives and address their troubles.
The Rwandan element of the story is threaded throughout the book and is an important backdrop to Theo’s story. But it becomes increasingly significant as we explore Theo’s motivations and he learns more about his past. Ultimately, revisiting his childhood in Rwanda allows Theo to come to terms with who he is and let go of his guilt.
It feels right that this part of the story comes into focus and isn’t just used as a device to drive the character. Introducing the Rwandan genocide also makes the characters question their own lives: their problems are really nothing in comparison to what happened there.
The author also manages to contrast the Rwandan genocide briefly with Ireland’s recent past, by introducing Deirdre’s father, a former IRA man who lives in a small village by the sea, where he is struggling with his own demons.
This is a sad story about people living on the fringes of society, struggling just to get by, whether than means financially or fitting in to a foreign city. It’s about unrealised dreams and breaking free of the past, having the power to shape your own life.
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Please note: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of review, but all opinions are my own.