“Box of Rain is the third in a series of “Street Stories” suspense novels focusing on the gritty side of Chicago. In this briskly paced story, Debra Borys weaves together two narratives: one about a young black man falsely suspected of murder and on the run from police, the other about a reporter on the case as she grapples with her father’s dubious past.”
This quick-paced, sometimes dark, but ultimately good-hearted novel aims for light entertainment with a straightforward message, not unlike the spirited Chicago detective novels of Sarah Paretsky.
“The characters are lightly but clearly sketched in their precarious situations and there are several nuanced angles to the story. For instance, not all of the people striving to help these young men are thoroughly “good.” Many show traces of both compassion and stubbornness or even ruthless greed. The young men themselves are far from perfect. The police show both concern and callousness. The reporter has more than her share of doubts about the young men; she is not their unfailing champion. Personal problems leave her irritable and sharp-tongued—a possible hindrance in her investigation. All this adds up to poor odds for a young man mired in a major criminal case.
This quick-paced, sometimes dark, but ultimately good-hearted novel aims for light entertainment with a straightforward message, not unlike the spirited Chicago detective novels of Sarah Paretsky. Box of Rain will not surprise those familiar with the problems between young black men and law enforcement. But with its tightly knit plot and a few good twists, this novel may be recommended for YA and general readers curious about how unconscious biases can lead to vicious cycles of distrust.”
From Chicago Book Review: Gritty but Ultimately Good-Hearted
Discussing Box of Rain with John Byck on his podcast made me realize just how much family is an underlying theme in the book.
John Byck from WritersAlive.com was one of the first people to interview me when Painted Black was published, so I was glad of an opportunity to revisit his podcast ansd talk about Box of Rain and the Street Stories series.
We also discuss the writing process, and the issues of homelessness and families. I hope you enjoy.
John Byk of Writers Alive has been on my mailing list since he did a podcast interview of me for the release of Painted Black back in 2011. When he received my latest notice about Box of Rain being released in print later this month, he contacted me to ask if I would be interested in doing another interview.
Of course I said yes! My 2011 appearance on his show was fun and an invaluable opportunity. He was a great host and made the live interview–which was my first ever as a published author–a great experience. I expect this one will be as well. I’ll post here whenever we get a date set up.
In addition, John offered to do a review of Box of Rain. In his role as an author interviewer, he has picked up quite a few review followers on Goodreads, so being reviewed by him will mean tremendous exposure. I am grateful for his interest and look forward to hearing what he thinks of the book.
As I always said, the best fiction is about reality. Watch a documentary about real life teens facing the same struggles Booker T does in Box of Rain.
The Homestretch is a documentary I first mentioned when I was still in the infant stages of writing Box of Rain. I was doubly excited about the news. First of all, and most importantly, the film calls attention to the overlooked and heartbreaking fact that many youth trying to make their way through the Chicago school system are also homeless. The film follows three youth as they struggle to stay in school.
The second reason, of course, is because that is the topic I address in Box of Rain. Booker T worked hard to get a college scholarship, yet a macabre murder, combined with a tendency to judge a street kid by past prejudices, might make his efforts all for nothing.
I just found out that the documentary, which is available for special screenings and is being released in several locations, is going to be shown on the PBS…
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Bridget at portable pieces of thought doesn’t give reviews a rating, and while her assessment of Box of Rain didn’t earn her “One Brilliant Book” sticker, it also didn’t get labelled “A Total Failure” or “Meh.” So I call this one a win.
I liked especially the characterization – as three-dimensional as you might wish. Jo Sullivan, working for a local newspaper, had also other problems to deal with; contrary to some of her fictional sister sleuths she didn’t live and breathe just to solve crimes and drink coffee. Not even that particular crime, concerning a boy who strived to overcome all odds and earn his degree.
Also Booker was an interesting protagonist to follow. He wasn’t idealized, he wasn’t a ‘saintly saint’ but a real human being with a darker side.
Lisa Duvall gave Box of Rain 3-stars on her blog and on Goodreads, but ranked it with 4-stars on Amazon.com, so since she had nothing but good things to say about the book, I’m counting it as a 4-star win.
“It was an absorbing read with realistic characters and plenty of twists and turns. It also tackled homelessness in a caring, sensitive manner. I recommend it.”
I am so blown away by M.J. Joachim’s comments in her Box of Rain review that I can’t pick only some of her post to quote and had to paste the whole thing. But I do encourage you to visit her site. She has a lot of great content you’d enjoy.
“Capturing a sense of reality in the dangerous prospect of living on the street, engaging in the abstract sense of hope through a sense of safety confounded by betrayal, Box of Rain stimulates and intensifies a journey saddened by hardship, lies and futility. It’s not easy breaking the cycle of negative circumstances and situations in one’s life. Even when one works confoundedly hard to do just that, life has a way of ripping the rug out from under you.
Surviving is not the same thing as living. Life on the street, in gangs, bouncing from foster home to foster home and the like is about survival, not living. Kids do what they have to do, they’re faith and trust in people always tested, which often leaves them bitter, cynical and afraid. Rarely is one able to count on another person while living this type of life. When one does, it may well lead to betrayal and unexpected pain in the future.
Box of Rain is an important story for us to read. It’s an inside view of life unfolding in the shadows of our world, providing a new perspective about the challenges good people face trying to survive and live in spite of the circumstances they were born into. The odds are usually against them. Heck, society and even their own kind are usually against them, but still some of them take every ounce of courage and every bit of energy they have to fight against the odds and break the cycle in the hopes of changing their lives for the better.
Box of Rain is a well written story that captivates the reader from beginning to end with twists and turns, making this book nearly impossible to put down at times. Borys keeps us wondering, sitting on the edge of our seat, scratching our head, guessing and hoping, praying even, for certain characters to be alright, and others to be held accountable for their crimes.
No spoilers here. You’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself, and I really hope you do. This is a very well written story, offering so much more than a good book to read. This book provides new perspective, and might even inspire a bit of action on our parts, to reach out or at least look at those living in the shadows with love, compassion and the willingness to care enough to do our part to help them.”