Rereads – The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere by John Chu

Water drops splashing I first read The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere last year when it was announced as a nominee for the Hugo Awards.

It floored me with its simple and elegant telling of a man trying to come out to his family. The SF-nal twist is that, at an unspecified point in the past, water began falling from nowhere onto the heads of those who told lies. The concept is strange and somehwat unsettling on first meeting – why, you want to know, has this happened? I don’t know, my sweets, it’s never explained and I never thought to ask. Because soon enough the thing you care about isn’t the fantastical but the human. The sweet, sad, achingly familiar dilemma of having to reveal a part of yourself to people whose judgement has the power to hurt you very deeply.

Add to this the problems of crossing cultures and generations, of (mis)translation and (mis)understanding and you can probably see why I fell in love with this story, put it at the top of my ballot, and cried actual tears watching John Chu’s acceptance speech when he won.

I decided to re-read it recently because I wanted to introduce my lovely friend Jason to the wonders of SFF. And so I read the entire thing out loud over the phone and fell in love all over again (and Jason did too). It’s amazing what just a few months distance can do to your memory of things – I’d completely forgotten the heart-achingly familiar ending, my own mind had inflated the amount of time I thought was spent on scenes I saw as important, and the added layer of misunderstanding provided by untranslated Chinese characters – gone.

The story I’d been remembering was good but I’d changed it somehow, perhaps to be something more similar to my own experiences, perhaps to cut out the quivering uncertainty I felt as I reread the ending and came close to tears. I don’t know. But it’s made me wonder about just about every other book I’ve read – what have I forgotten, what have I rewritten to suit my own narrative, and what should I reread next?



2 thoughts on “Rereads – The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere by John Chu

  1. T says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve reread any books, booktube and S&L have turned my TBR list into a behemoth which leaves no time for rereading, but something I love about rereading is finding all the things I missed the first time as well as the smaller scenes which get forgotten but which fleshed out the book and gave it depth to fall into. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is an excellent book to reread because it has such a twisty plot so each time I discover something which foreshadows/explains a later twist. I tend to read too fast, almost skim read, and don’t take everything in (but when I try to read slower I can’t get into the world so I’ve stopped trying), so I really benefit from rereading books I love.
    The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere is a wonderful story. I read it mainly on your recommendation in your Hugo video and somehow missed the coming out element in both your and the book’s description (see, skim read – missing entire plot line…) which actually worked well because I had no expectation. I really liked the use of the Chinese writing and the lack of translation. I’d also forgotten the ending and just reread the last pages; easier to remember the parent’s reaction rather than the sister’s I suppose.
    Great blog post 🙂


  2. says:

    I purposely made a bit more time for rereading things over the past year and I have thoroughly enjoyed almost every single one (just a few didn’t stand up to memory). I suspect that I too am something of a skim reader because I have a tendency to get caught up in the plot and forget to just let it wash over you. You really do find so much more when you back and reread things!


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