56 pages 1 hour read

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Shouting at the Rain

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2019

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Summary and Study Guide


Shouting at the Rain is a 2019 contemporary middle-grade novel by American author Lynda Mullaly Hunt. The novel follows a seventh grader named Delsie McHill, who struggles to come to terms with her mother’s abandonment while making a new friend in Ronan Gale, a newcomer to Cape Cod with a troubled past. It explores themes of The Importance of Friendship and Family, The Complexity of Human Emotions and Character, and The Importance of Changing Perspective.

This study guide refers to the 2019 Nancy Paulson Books edition.

Content Warning: The source material references drug and alcohol addiction.

Plot Summary

The novel opens with Delsie’s friend Aimee landing a role in a production of the musical Annie. Aimee’s remarks lead Delsie to realize that she is like an orphan, as she has never known her parents and was instead raised by her maternal grandmother, Grammy.

Delsie’s friend Brandy arrives at Cape Cod for the summer, but Delsie swiftly loses Brandy’s companionship to a new visitor, Tressa, who is cruel to Delsie and mocks her with increasing intensity. However, Delsie soon meets Ronan Gale, the son of the new caretaker at the holiday grounds where her grandmother works. Though Ronan is rumored to be a troublemaker and possibly even a thief, he stands up for Delsie when she is bullied by Tressa, and the two become close friends.

Meanwhile, Delsie is increasingly upset by Grammy’s refusal to tell her more about her mother (Grammy’s daughter), Mellie; Grammy says the subject is too painful to discuss. After finding some old photos and jewelry, Delsie confronts Grammy, who lets slip that she asked Mellie to stay away until she was ready to be a mother. Delsie feels angry and betrayed. In the aftermath of the falling out, she grows closer to Esme, Delsie and Grammy’s neighbor, who shares her “nourishing tea” with Delsie and takes her to lunch.

A major storm hits Cape Cod. Knowing that Olive, a cantankerous neighbor, is afraid of storms, Grammy takes Delsie to Olive’s house to keep Olive company while sheltering from the wind and rain. Afterward, Delsie and Ronan find a beached boat: the Reel of Fortune, which belongs to Esme’s husband, Henry. They find Henry and show him what’s happened, but Henry feels that there’s nothing they can do but wait for the tide to come in.

Soon afterward, Henry takes Delsie and Ronan fishing. When Ronan loses his pole to a shark, he tries to jump into the water after it. Henry stops him, but the incident deeply distresses Ronan, who feels that his father, a fisherman, would be ashamed of him.

Grammy finally reveals that Mellie loved Delsie but was addicted to alcohol and drugs and therefore unable to care for her. Around the same time, Ronan and Delsie go clamming, and Ronan reveals to Delsie that his mother is not dead, as he earlier claimed. She sent him to Cape Cod to live with his father because he’s “too much trouble” (186). Ronan then notices a horseshoe crab, and Delsie tells him about the species. He immediately takes a liking to them, so when he sees two boys abusing the crab, he punches one of them and is consequently seized by the police.

After Ronan’s return from the station, Henry tells Ronan and Delsie that in high school, he and some friends robbed a few houses and were imprisoned for two years. Papa Joseph, Delsie’s grandfather, gave Henry a second chance by hiring him for his fishing boat, the Reel of Fortune, which Joseph would eventually give to Henry. He tells the children to view themselves as survivors rather than victims.

Tressa and Delsie’s relationship becomes moderately warmer after Delsie rescues a dog Tressa was supposed to be walking. In return, Tressa gives Delsie a kitten Tressa previously prevented her mother from adopting out to Delsie and Grammy. Tressa and Brandy attend the production of Annie and go backstage with Delsie and Ronan afterward. Tressa ditches Brandy to hang out with Aimee, but Brandy and Delsie part on good terms as Delsie leaves Cape Cod for the fall.

At the end of the novel, Ronan moves into Delsie’s neighborhood. His relationship with his father has improved, as Ronan now understands that his father loves and is proud of him but struggles to show it. The neighborhood surprises Olive by decorating her family’s tree with Christmas lights, which her own father used to do. Delsie realizes that she does not need to feel broken or unfulfilled due to her mother’s absence in her life; she is grateful for Grammy and her loving friends and neighbors, who act as a surrogate family.