Henderson the Rain King: A sort of book review

Book reviews aren’t exactly something that will appear regularly on my blog. I’d just rather stick with more original ideas than reviewing someone else’s work (though movie reviews might be an avenue I venture down regularly in the future).

But “Henderson the Rain King” has seeped into my brain and I can’t get rid of it now that I’ve finished it.

I’m not even sure where to begin. The novel never sucked me in. Yet I continued to plug away at it.

I think the main protagonist, Henderson, was a blowhard. From the get-go he was always talking about how great he was or how much he could love or could feel pain or regret or anything. And yet the first chance he got he would do the opposite or offend someone without an ounce of regret.

Then he was off to Africa to supposedly find himself. Though the first three-quarters of the novel, including his early journeys through the middle of Africa, were more about doing things to prop himself up as vastly important than they were about finding himself.

Irksome. That’s the best way I could describe Henderson. Like a grown-up Holden Caufield, but without the charm or innocence of youth.

And then came the lion cub and the death of Dahfu and the child on the plane. And suddenly Henderson came to the realization that everything wasn’t all about him. There was so much more. Maybe that was when the grun-tu-molani fully hit Henderson, yet in a subversive way so that he didn’t realize what it was. He was so focused on achieving that level of knowledge, or that act of being; but it was something that had to happen naturally. The queen of the Arnewi couldn’t teach him. And no matter how many discussions he had with Chief Dahfu, Henderson wasn’t going to learn it via discourse.

But when Henderson stepped off that plane in Greenland, holding the child wrapped in a blanket, and started running in circles around the plane, he had finally become a Being person. No longer was he a Becoming person. He’d finally reached a point of peace. He was happy with where he was. He was Being.

And suddenly, in just those last few pages, I fell in love with the novel. It was as though I could forgive Henderson for his lifetime of mistakes and self-righteousness. Whatever happened to Henderson in the waning years of his life after the novel, it became easy to imagine him living life to the fullest in a way he’d never before made you think possible.


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