series: Heart of Carolina
Nicole Michelin avoids airplanes, motorcycles, and most of all, Japan, where her parents once were missionaries. Something happened in Japan...something that sent Nicole and her father back to America alone...something of which Nicole knows only bits and pieces. But she is content with life in little Mount Olive, North Carolina, with her quirky relatives, tank of lively fish, and plenty of homemade pineapple chutney. Through her online column for the Pretty Fishy Web site, she meets Harrison Michaels, who, much to her dismay, lives in Japan. She attempts to avoid him, but his e-mails tug at her heart. Then Harrison reveals that he knew her as a child in Japan. In fact, he knows more about her childhood than she does...
"Rain Song, the debut novel of Alice J. Wisler, offers a charming plot that is partially a mystery with overtones of a romance. The story centers on Nicole, who lives a solitary life which is focused around her interactions with her quirky southern relatives and caring for her aquarium of fish. Her life is filled with teaching middle school English and periodically writing an on-line column for Pretty Fishy. It is through her column that she becomes acquainted with Harrison who lives in Japan and owns a koi pond. Nicole has strong ties with Japan, having been born there to missionary parents; however, her mother tragically died there when Nicole was but a toddler. Nicole vows she will not return to the land of her birth, no matter that her correspondence with Harrison reveals he knew her as a child. Nicole begins to waver as the mystery of her mother's death begins to unravel, and she tries to overcome her apprehensions of flying and returning to her birthplace.
"Wisler's style is captivating. The story unfolds as a soliloquy of sorts, as Nicole goes through life. Set in North Carolina, readers enjoy the cast of distinctive relatives, ranging from the matriarch Ducee to the wild child Monet. Each character adds to the story in such a way that the eccentricities add and not distract. Amid life's emergencies such as an ailing grandmother and a cousin's failing marriage there is quibbling over serving cucumber sandwiches at the family reunion luncheon and the need to make and provide pineapple chutney for all occasions. The heartbeat of the story is pineapple chutney, and the old family recipe is provided. Tender spiritual truths are present, mainly those dwelling on the strength of faith, even if it is just a seed. Gently-paced, this story was surprisingly a page-turner."
--Pam Webb, Christian Library Journal, August 2009
"Nicole Michelin's best friends are her fish. They don't ask her to ride motorcycles or fly on planes. Better yet, they never say anything about Japan. All the 31-year-old English teacher knows is that when she was an infant, her missionary mother died in that country; and her father chose never to speak of it. But when an online acquaintance from overseas reveals his knowledge of the family's past, Nicole must determine if she has the courage needed to pursue the truth.
"Wisler's debut novel has the same comforting and soft tones as a water-color painting, but quirky family members and unexpected turns add the dash of vibrancy needed to keep a slower-paced novel afloat. Not quite mystery or romance, Rain Song finds itself somewhere in between. A good story for teens and women, this book hides small smiles and sunshine amidst its pages."
--LR, Church Libraries, Spring 2009
"Nicole Michelin was born in Japan where her parents were missionaries. Something terrible happened when she was very young, and her mother died. She and her father returned to North Carolina and never spoke about it again. Through her website where she gives information about the care of fish, Nicole meets Harrison Michaels. She discovers he lives in Japan and knew her family when they lived there. He knows more about her childhood than she does, and provides answers to many of Nicole's questions. Nicole must overcome her fear of flying before she can go to Japan and come to terms with her past so she can welcome her future. This is Alice Wisler's first novel, and she has done an excellent job. I look forward to reading more from this new author. This would be a very good book for a book club. there are questions for discussion in the back of the book."
--PD, Libraries Alive
"In Wisler's likable debut, a young woman is offered a chance to find romance and make peace with her past. After her missionary mother dies under mysterious circumstances in Japan, young Nicole Michelin returns to North Carolina to live with her depressed father and loving grandmother. Now 31, and a middle school English teacher, Nicole bears the scars of a time she can't remember. She sleeps with her cloth kimono doll and nurses phobias ranging from anxiety about flying to a fear of commitment. But when she 'meets' an intriguing man through a Web site column, her yearning for love encourages her to risk getting to know him even though he lives in Japan. Wisler's cast of Southern women is lightly sketched but no less charming for this, and her development of the relationship between Nicole and her three-year-old autistic cousin strikes poignant notes throughout. Faith fiction fans will appreciate the strong faith of Nicole's influence grandmother, Ducee Dubois, who helps Nicole face her fears."
--Publisher's Weekly, June 9, 2008
"Nicole Micheli, the daughter of a missionary in Japan, is haunted by fears of secrets from her childhood. She writes an outline column that brings an intriguing man into her life, but when she learns he lives in Japan, Nicole may not be able to face the past that prevents her from moving on, unless she can trust God to help her find the way. A worthy first novel with a Southern flair, this title addresses dealing with a painful childhood in a realistic way. Recommended for CF and women's fiction collections. The author lives in North Carolina."
--Library Journal, June 1, 2008
"What if someone knew more about your past than you did? This is a thought that intrigued Alice J. Wisler, the author of Rain Song. 'I was fascinated by the idea of someone who knew more about your past than you do--the mystery that goes along with that,' Wisler says.
"The novel's main character, Nicole Michelin, was born in Japan to missionary parents. After the death of her mother, she and her devastated father return to her parents' hometown of Mount Olive, NC. Nicole remembers nothing of her life in Japan and develops a fear of flying. She settles into her new, Southern lifestyle with the epitome of Southern charm and a voice of reason. Nicole's life becomes predictable--go to work as a teacher, feed her fish, spend time with family and plan an annual family reunion. But one day, all of this changes with an e-mail from a man in Japan, a man who knows more about Nicole than she does.
"Wisler introduces characters that are especially relatable to anyone familiar with the South and some who are a bit more eclectic. With each new character, a different side of Nicole is revealed. Throughout the novel, Wisler expands on themes of traditions and family and even includes Ducee's recipe of pineapple chutney, which is a source of comfort to Nicole.
"After experiencing challenges in her own life, including the loss of a child, Wisler desired to write about someone who found comfort in trusting God. 'As Christians, trusting in God when the world is shaky can be hard, but He is with us and won't forsake us.'
"As a reader, you will begin cheering for Nicole as she journeys through her life and past. Will she be able to overcome her fears and find herself? With each page, the overall theme of trusting in God becomes more apparent. Pick up Rain Song at a LifeWay location near you."
--Laura Ervin, Austin Christian Family, October 2008
"Nicole Micheli, the daughter of a missionary in Japan, is haunted by fears of secrets from her childhood. She writes an online column that brings an intriguing man into her life, but when she learns he lives in Japan, Nicole many not be able to face the past that prevents her from moving on, unless she can trust God to help her find the way. A worthy first novel with a Southern flair, this title addresses dealing with a painful childhood in a realistic way. Recommended for CF and women's fiction collections. The author lives in North Carolina."
--Library Journal, June 1, 2008
"Wisler's debut novel contains eccentric characters and a mixture of cultures (Southern U.S. and Japanese). While the ending is a bit abrupt, the book is well written and includes discussion questions and a recipe for pineapple chutney.
"SUMMARY: Born to missionary parents in Japan but raised by her grandmother in North Carolina, Nicole has spent the last 28 years avoiding airplanes and everything Japanese. She has few memories of her mother, who died in a fire there, but she does have a doll that she has kept since childhood.
"After being dumped by her boyfriend, she meets Harrison online. They have a great deal in common, including their love of fish, having missionary parents and being born in Japan, where he still lives. Nicole is shocked to learn that Harrison knew her as a child. Harrison tells her that he wants her to visit, as do others who knew her as a child. Nicole longs to learn more about her childhood, but will her fears hold her captive in America?"
--Leslie L. McKee, Romantic Times Book Reviews, October 2008
"Pineapple chutney, cucumber sandwiches and all the Southern etiquette that you can stand is waiting for you in Rain Song, a new novel at Sheppard Memorial Library by North Carolina author Alice J. Wisler.
"Wisler's likable debut features a young woman who is offered a chance to find romance and to make peace with her past.
"No memories. Only a kimono-clad doll and one aged photo are left to remind Nicole Michelin that, for the first two years of her life, she had a mother who loved her. These are not enough to fill the empty place in her heart where her past should reside. After a tragic accident that killed her mother, Nicole and her father returned to Mount Olive.
"Now a middle school teacher, 31 years old, Nicole bears the scars of a time she can't remember. Nicole isn't afraid of much, just a few things: airplanes, motorcycles, and most of all, Japan. Living in Mount Olive, Nicole is surrounded by her loving but very quirky relatives. First and foremost, is her grandmother Ducce and Ducce's pet donkey, Maggie McCormick. Also included is her great Aunt Iva, whose goal in life is to convince Ducce (her sister) to serve cucumber sandwiches at the family reunion. Included in the mix is Nicole's 3-year-old cousin Monet, who tries everyone's patience with her wild tantrums and demands to see Nicole's fish.
"Fish are Nicole's one true passion. She keeps a 55-gallon tank of marine fish in her apartment and even writes articles for the Pretty Fishy Web site. In fact, the Pretty Fishy Web site is where she comes face to face with her past. Harrison Michaels e-mails Nicole asking for her advice on how to keep his fish from eating the plants in his Koi pond. As they begin exchanging e-mails, she eventually learns that he is an American teacher living in Japan. Due to her fear of everything Japanese, Nicole vows to end all communication with Harrison. Of course that doesn't last longer than an ice cube in the Carolina sun.
"Something about this man and his life in Japan entice her to continue communicating. One morning, Nicole opens her e-mail to see a message from Harrison that nearly stops her heart. 'Nicole, my mother remembers the night you were born.' Nicole, frightened of her past, is hesitant to learn more. And when Harrison invites her to Japan, Nicole must choose to stand and face her past or run and hide.
"Nicole, at first timid and insecure, slowly blossoms into a strong, shelf-assured woman. This warm novel shows these Southern women and how they stand together, using cooking and food to keep them strong.
"After reading this novel, the reader is sure to crave pineapple chutney; luckily the author has included her recipe."
--Tammy Jolly Fulcher, The Daily Reflector (Greenville, NC), November 30, 2008
"Nicole Michelin, 31, an unmarried North Carolinian living near her eccentric grandmother and aunt, is a bundle of carefully hidden fears that show up in her chewed fingernails and fondness for pints of ice cream. We learn that her mother died when Nicole was a child in Japan and her father never talked about it, so all she has of her mother is a deformed kimono doll and a photograph--until she begins an e-mail correspondence with a fellow fish-lover in Japan that opens up her past and helps her face her fears.
"One of the novel's charms is that Nicole is a quirky narrator who tells her story in the present tense, so we see the world through her idiosyncratic and sometimes scatter-brained perspective."
--Susan Olasky, World, October 4/11 2008