Exit the Rain-Maker – Book Review

ExittheRainMakerby: Jonathan Coleman

Publisher: Dell Publishing

Copyright: 1989, ISBN: [0689118775]

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes. August 5, 1995

Summary: College president disappears one day from his forty-seven years of a constructed life. No reason given. The author finds answers. Highly recommended.

Reprinted from Crushies Book Review, Aug 1995 Volume II, Issue No. 8:


You’ve no doubt had the experience of picking up a book, reading the hype, flipping through a couple of pages and saying to yourself, “gawd, this looks boring”. ………..

Exit the Rain-Maker may have been one of those books. Needless to say, first impressions can sometimes be very wrong. Rain-Maker is one of those books in which the right author found the right subject. It is doubtful whether any other author could have pulled off this study of a mid-life crisis the way Coleman has done.

The story itself is simple. A forty-seven year old community college President one day in May, 1982 simply vanishes. He leaves behind a couple of farewell notes, a prestigious position, a well paying consulting job, a twenty room house, a beautiful wife to whom he was married for fourteen years, an impeccable reputation and scores of devoted friends. So begins the mystery. Why did he leave, why did he run?

In the end, you will come up with your own reason as to why Julian Nance Carsey, or Jay as he was called, turned his back on a life he spent forty-seven years building. This is one of those instances in which your judgment reveals more about you than it does about who you are judging. The reason is that Coleman, relying upon interviews with 150 people, including Jay Carsey and his wife, has managed to separate cause and effect and examine them in parallel.

The subject of people “running away” seems to be growing in popularity both as fictional speculation and reality (see Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler reviewed in the June 95 issue by Leslie Yau). It’s not surprising to learn that the consequence of “chucking it all” is the same in both genres. The real interest of course is why people make the decision in the first place. It all comes down to this thing about spiritual values.

Jay Carsey made all the right career moves , said all the right words to indicate that he had adopted to the upper-middle class, conservative world in which he operated. Even his wife, Nancy, had no reason to believe Jay Carsey was anything other than what he seemed–adjusted. In looking back, examining Carsey’s life up to the point he ran away, it is easy to assume that he was indeed outwardly adjusted. Inwardly was a different matter.

There are scores of conventional wisdom sayings applicable to the life of Jay Carsey. “Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it,” is probably the most apt. He apparently wanted wealth, success, a beautiful wife. He go it all. After fifteen years of paying the price, he quite. In retrospect the emotional price he was paying was greater than what he was capable of paying. But there is more to it than that. Much more.

It would be a mistake to think that Carsey was a victim. Coleman does bring up the report that Carsey’s wife was, in one instance at least, physically abusive. There were other instances in which Mrs. Carsey was verbally abusive and demeaning to her husband. If put in a different perspective, the constant socializing and constant trickle of money Nancy Carsey spent could be viewed as a form of abuse. But Jay Carsey as a victim stretches the word beyond reasonable bounds. No, Jay was not a victim either of himself or others. He had what he wanted. He simply reached a point at which he did not want it anymore. Therein lies the real fascination with Julian Nance Carsey.

The way Coleman has structured this book, the issues that he covers–and does not cover for that matter–makes this almost a definitive work on the life of American middle class existence in the late 20th century. It has all the elements of a good mystery, all the reality of the newspaper headlines from which the story came. Read the book and decide for yourself why Jay ran.

Addendum: Jay Carsey died in 2000. This, after he married and absconded again in 1992 and eventually moved to Florida.