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Book Review: The Rain May Pass


It’s not every day that a 95-year-old-man comes out with an engaging memoir that looks back 80 years to trace the start of a successful theatrical career and a rewarding personal life as a gay man.

It all began with a chance encounter on a beach in Cape Cod when a stranger, older, handsome, gave 15-year-old Alan Shayne a certain look that would forever transform him — look that the young boy instinctively, erotically responded to. He was lonely. It was summer. He was away from his family working. He tried, but really had no girlfriends.

It’s also not that common that a memoir recounts such a faltering but life-changing moment with such authenticity that the reader feels as though those recreated years are happening in present time.

Roger, the older man who picked up young Alan on the beach initiated him into a world of passion and also encouraged him to be self confident and pursue his desire to be an actor. But he also, in effect, taught young Alan that love can be followed by pain. Having exploited the young boy’s sexual confusion, he deserts him.

In a recent interview in the New Haven Register, Shayne says that he recalls every instance of that beach encounter, adding that he had always wanted to write about his adolescent experiences because the narrative was “a sad story with a happy ending.”

The memoir is called The Rain May Pass, and the title reflects a casual comment made to Alan by a woman, a sympathetic summer stock theater owner after an audition that didn’t go too well. She casually pats his arm as his car drives away, and says “the rain may pass.” It was a rainy day, but she said the rain “may” pass not that it would. She also told him he had acting talent and urged him to persevere. But promised nothing.

Roger, Alan believed, had promised it all. It had been a lonely time that summer in 1941 when Alan’s parents had sent him against his wishes to stay with and help out his grandmother who ran a dusty cluttered tourist shop on Cape Cod. Nana, an unpleasant penny-pinching immigrant, couldn’t have cared less about her impoverished and lonely grandchild. He tries, nonetheless to make friends with her and with Cape Cod kids his own age, but the richer ones keep to themselves and with the others, he just couldn’t fit in.

Along comes Roger.

The time period says it all.  It was the early '40s. Before Stonewall, before LGBT human rights legislation; before “gay” would take on positive connotations for the male homosexual community; a time before there were books about being gay, or TV shows with gay people, or  gay relationships that might be invoked as models. There was no one to talk to, nothing in American culture at the time that would have welcomed a sensitive youngster’s inquiries about sexual identity.

In a brief epilogue, Shayne acknowledges spending years in analysis after a disastrous marriage and an affair with an actress. Four years ago Shayne came out with a memoir called A Double Life, about a success on Broadway, becoming a Vice President of Warner Brothers TV, and most important, finding a life partner he’s now been with for 65 years.  The new memoir, however, The Rain May Pass, with its funny, bittersweet recollections of coming of age may prove the more compelling tale. The rain DID pass, and Alan Shayne learned that rainy seasons can be harbingers of rainbows. 



Joan Baum is a recovering academic from the City University of New York, who spent 25 years teaching literature and writing. She covers all areas of cultural history but particularly enjoys books at the nexus of the humanities and the sciences.