The Raging Quiet is a book I never would have read. The cover is juvenile at best, cheesy at worst. It's a romance and I'm a tomboy. Yes sometimes I have girly moments (Archer Cross, Peeta Mellark, I'm looking at you) but I didn't think I could read a straight-up romance. My friends over on goodreads told me to read this book. They said it was a romance, but it wasn't that type of romance.
They were right.
The Raging Quiet is not like the romances I've avoided. The characters are well developed and the romance takes time. The story is a historical romance without a specific time period, something that adds to the timeless fairytale feel. The story lacks the magic that's normally associated with such myths, relying on realistic events and the chemistry between the two main characters to push the story forward instead of devices like fairy godmothers and cursed apples. I like that.
The book starts with Marnie leaving her home, wed to Sir William Isherwood's son. She's only 16 and he's twice her age. She marries for the pragmatic reasons of the past: to protect her families livelihood after her father falls ill and to escape the rumors circulating about her. This is not glorified or turned into a horror, the book appropriately shows the fears of a reluctant bride without making her husband Isake fully hero or bad guy.
"Her face was striking, with astonishing blue eyes and forthright look that got her into trouble on the farm. Various youths, reading her boldness as brazenness had at different times tried to grab her in the hay barn or behind the stables, and been soundly walloped for their trouble." (Description of Marnie)
When Marnie arrives at her new home Torcurra they're beating the devils out of the local mad boy. It's a chilling image of the times and the town Marnie lives in. Two days after her arrival her husband dies and the town, leery of anyone different or unknown, becomes suspicious.
Facing a town that doesn't like or understand her, Marnie doesn't cower but continues to do what she thinks is right regardless of the consequences. She befriends the local madman, a young man who grunts and rages, but is unable to communicate. The villagers think he's possessed by demons but he reminds Marnie of her sick father. In some ways Marnie is too good to be true, too good for the world that she lives in, but that's part of what makes her such a lovable heroine. She's sweet and kind, with a rare empathetic heart that she always follows. That's why she helps the madman and it's one of the truest examples of Christian-love I've ever seen in a novel. (This isn't a "Christian novel" but it's set in a Christian time period/village). Even the town priest learns from Marnie's example. Though the madman scares her, she also pities him, understands his isolation and eventually tries to find ways to communicate with him.
I worry that talking much about Raven would be considered spoilers. But this is as much his story as Marnie's and I really admire what the author has done with his character. She's created a believable character with a disability and plopped him into a time period that is unwilling to accept him. Once you understand Raven, his fits of anger and confusion are completely understandable. I'll leave it at that and let you discover Raven on your own.
Calling The Raging Quiet a "romance" doesn't seem to do this book justice. Yes there is a love story at it's center. But for me romance has become a dirty word in books. This book isn't about love at first site or long overwrought crushes. It's about the friendship that blossoms between two people and over time becomes something more. To me that's what love is. It's not this flashy, sparkly, mopey or otherwise unbelievable stuff we normally see in books. It's friendship that grows until it's so big there aren't words to describe it anymore.
In some ways this book is as much about friendship and kindness as love. That's what I feel like most romances are lacking. That's what pulled me in and made this book different. It's a simple story, but a believable story. The relationship builds naturally and nothing ever feels forced.
I'm glad that people pushed me to read this book. I'll probably always be leery of romance novels, but this book proves that sometimes a story can surpass it's label. This book worked because it gave me what I want from EVERY book--likable main characters, believable character development and a story that deserves to be told.