Monday, February 23, 2015

The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The colonies on Altair were frontier settlements whose raw materials fed the factories of Earth.  It was no surprise after torrential rains thundered across Altair that the small Rowan Mining camp was totally destroyed in a mudslide. What was surprising was the psychic wail of agony that went up, so loud and clear that it pierced the mind of every halfway sensitive telepath on the planet - and more surprising still, the discovery that this strong new psychic voice belonged to a three-year-old child, the lone survivor of the disaster.

The named her "the Rowan," not knowing any more about her than that, and she grew into a beautiful, magical-looking woman. She was also the most important Talent on the planet, using her enormous mental powers to help move cargo loads to all of the other inhabited worlds. 

But it was a lonely life - an especially lonely life for a lovely woman who had been deprived of her childhood.  The men who loved her were beneath her, and she loved no one - until Jeff Raven entered her life.  His voice appeared in her mind one day: the strong call of a fellow telepath in distress, Jeff was a wild Talent, his latent abilities called forth by an alien attack that threatened to destroy his planet.  With the Rowan's help, he rove back the invaders; now he wants only to find out more about he strong and fascinating woman who helped save his world.  

Their tumultuous love affair means the end of loneliness for the Rowan, and the union of their Talents makes them the most powerful team in all the inhabited worlds - ready for the challenges they expect may await them, as the rest of the universe begins to notice the expansion of human settlements in space. 

The Rowan, and it's sequels, are comfort reading for me.  I'm not a huge science fiction fan, nor am I really a fan of Anne McCaffrey.  I've tired to read the Dragonriders of Pern books, but really can't get into them at all.  But there is something about this series, these particular characters, that I can't seem to ever let go of, and choose to revisit every once in a while.

I'm sure part of it's because the Rowan, whose real name ends up being Angharad Gwyn, and her sense of isolation and loneliness that tugs at those same feelings in my own life. Because of all the moving and traveling we did as a kid, I never really had the opportunity to stay around kids my own age, which means I really never learned how to develop lasting friendships.  I couldn't relate to them, so loneliness was a very real thing for me growing up.  Add in the feelings of growing up a gay kid, and you can imagine that it wasn't a ton of fun for me.  Like the Rowan, I grew up, and while that loneliness never goes away all the way, I've learned to deal with it, and have come out of my shell quite a bit.  She is an amazing character, one that changes so much through this books, and it's sequels, but like a lot of my favorite characters, she is more than that for me.  She's like a sister I never knew I had, or a long lost cousin, one I get to reconnect with every year or so.

What really sets this book apart from the rest of what I've read from McCaffrey, are the secondary and supporting characters.  There really isn't a weak or unnecessary one in the whole bunch, and I'm in love with them about as much.  I adore Jeff Raven, and his mother for that matter.  He's such a quietly confident individual, and he is the perfect match for the Rowan.  They compliment each other in ways, I can only hope of finding in my own life.  I've always pictured them this way; take the relationship that Nick and Nora Charles have, take away the alcohol, give them monstrous telepathic/telekinetic abilities, and put them in space.  They are one of those couples that just fits, and nothing could ever force them apart.  There's also Afra Lyon, who I love just about as much, and a whole host of equally compelling characters.  When you put them together, it's the perfect family portrait, just mixed in with telepathy and invading aliens.

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