Leaving Before the Rains Come

If you’re read Fuller’s first two memoirs you know that 1. Her family drinks a lot 2. Is a tad dysfunctional 3. But everyone loves each other and also madly loves the people, wildlife, landscape of southern Africa.

In this book, Fuller (whose nickname is Bobo) recounts picking up stakes, giving up her

African home and moving with her husband to Wyoming where the snow in the winter comes up to the eaves of the old cabins.

Fuller’s writing is as entertaining as ever especially when she describes her mother and father’s exploits. There’s the day the rabid dog visits the property and thankfully Bobo’s mother has the sense not to let into her bedroom. Also, the day she drives home from the bar with her husband on the car roof. When he begins banging on it repeatedly, she interprets his bangs as go faster, go faster. Instead of the desperate pleas to pull over and let him down that he meant.

But Fuller also is a master of detailing the foibles, eccentricities and complicated love of her family, and how hard it was to bring boyfriends home to meet the folks. First the distance and difficulty of bush travel made staying overnight a necessity. And if they stayed overnight they had to deal with the drinking and testing of her parents.

Bobo meets her husband to be playing polo on a dusty African pasture. He’s a great adventurer, a river runner and mountain climber. She never planned to move to the states; she assumed her husband would prefer to stay in Africa.

A vast cultural gap separated them.  She had never heard of the Main Line and assumed this suburban Philadelphia place had a drug connection, had no idea that it was a tony place of inherited wealth and great social standing.

It’s when the two worlds meet side by side that the great divergences show, for example when Bobo talks to her folks from her very quiet Wyoming wintry home. Her mother holds up the phone so Fuller can hear frogs, birds, the locals at the bar—the sounds of Africa brimming with life. On Bobo’s end only winter silence prevails.

Alternating between past times in Africa and the present in Wyoming, this book also details the process of a marriage unravelling. Bobo loses her crisp British accent (because of changing governments and countries in Africa her family decided to keep their British citizenship) but also builds a connection to our western landscape and way of life.

She alternates from outrageous humor—her wedding day when she had a malarial fever and the gallons of Indian curry went bad—to the drama of living in a wilderness ravaged by war—the story of the day drunk soldiers invaded their property when she was only 15, and she served them proper English tea instead of the beer and beef they demanded.  Her cook stood with her with one knife hidden behind his back.

If you like memoirs, you will love this book—full of drama, a rich intelligence, and heart.