The Raising: A Novel

Image of The Raising: A Novel
Release Date: 
March 14, 2011
Harper Perennial
Reviewed by: 

Craig Clements-Rabbitt gave up the draw of Dartmouth to embrace the prestige of Godwin Honors Hall, located in the heart of one of the countries biggest public universities.

Craig comes from a wealthy—albeit dysfunctional—family, while his roommate Perry is the epitome of small town and family values. Though miles separate Craig and Perry in personality and personal morals, one thing unites them: sorority girl, Nicole Warner.

Despite being an unlikely couple, the often crass Craig becomes butter in the hands of the sun-sweet Nicole, and he soon falls deeply in love. With responsibilities to the sorority already creating a point of contention between them, Nicole’s sorority sisters actively consider Craig a problem—and an outsider.

Craig’s issues with Nicole’s sorority only get worse when a car accident—with Craig at the wheel—claims Nicole’s life. Shelly Lockes, a music teacher at the university, not only witnesses the single-car incident, but is first on the scene. Despite multiple news accounts claiming Nicole was found dead in a pool of blood, Shelly’s protestations that not only is there no blood, but that Nicole is not dead, fall on deaf ears.

A year later, Nicole’s sorority continues to make life a living hell for the confused and heartbroken Craig; however, Craig isn’t the only one who is confused: Perry and a few others are worried about their own mental stability as they swear they’ve just seen Nicole in recent photographs and on campus. Perry turns to humanities professor, Mira Polson, who is teaching a class on death, in the hopes that she can help answer all of his difficult questions.

The life and questionable death of Nicole Warner will pull Craig, Perry, Mira and Shelly into a dark mystery; and the quest for the truth will change their lives forever.

Told in the present day and punctuated by interstitial flashbacks and memories, The Raising has three different stories that eventually converge, centering on the accident, which then becomes central in each participant’s life.

Though wielding power seems to be the main theme of The Raising, there’s also a strong underlying theme of subjection. Mira Polson is unable to control the frenetic unraveling of her marriage. Despite multiple attempts, Shelly cannot force the newspapers to report the correct facts of the accident nor could she resist getting involved with her female work student. Perry is guilt-ridden and in denial over his previous actions with Nicole, and Craig either refuses or is unable to see who Nicole truly is. As a result, each character is being held hostage by their continued disregard of the obvious.

For each of the three story lines, the author chooses to give barely a snippet of information—just enough to whet the reader’s literary appetite, before flipping back to the past. Initially, this technique builds anticipation, but after continued employment it tends to become quite frustrating.

One thing is for certain: author Laura Kasischke definitely gives the reader a healthy dose of delayed gratification—although the word “gratifying” is used loosely. Midway through the book, the suspense is brought to its apex; however, the reveal is belated, and the plot dragged out for another 150 pages.

By the time the story is summed up, patience has long expired. Instead of going out in a blaze of glory, The Raising seems to simply dissipate in a puff of smoke.