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Originally published Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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‘Clearly Now, the Rain’: love and loss in post-grunge Seattle

Seattle author Eli Hastings’ memoir “Clearly Now, the Rain” is his story of falling in love with a young woman, a tortured soul who needed more than those who loved her knew how to give.

Special to The Seattle Times

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‘Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips’

by Eli Hastings

ECW Press, 260 pp., $17.95

Some relationships make us question whether we’ve loved enough, others whether we’ve loved too much.

But Seattle author Eli Hastings grapples with an even more perplexing issue in his latest book: Did he love the right way?

His new memoir, “Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips,” is a drug, romance and adventure-filled exploration of that gut-wrenching question, a story that is both thoroughly of its time (post-grunge Seattle) and timeless in theme.

It all begins in Seattle in1996. Hastings is a teenage stoner who takes crazy, “On the Road”-style trips around the country with his buddies and eventually winds up at a college in California, where one of his pals from back home, Jay, is already studying. Jay is smitten with a beautiful, well-off but tough-as-nails South Indian girl named Serala, a tortured soul who’s earned her grace the hard way.

Hastings is taken with her too and in the socially incestuous caldron that is a college campus, winds up becoming friends and then lovers with her. Serala loosens up around Hastings and in one of many memorable scenes between the two of them, she confides in him: “I carry so much around,” she tells Hastings. “I think I want you to know me.”

It is a fateful invitation inside the world of a young woman who is brimming with street wisdom and a mysterious allure, who chain smokes, fights and drives around in a car nicknamed Desert Storm, no less. She swirls through life like a vapor, barely there yet intoxicating everyone who comes into contact with her.

The hard reality, though, is that Serala, who transitions easily from edgy poet and filmmaker to corporate warrior, is as troubled as her flighty escapades to find drugs suggest.

Serala descends deeper into addiction, mental instability and desperation, a spiral that Hastings, who’s dealt with similar issues among friends and whose father struggled with substance abuse, is all too familiar with.

“Did she think it was (expletive) easy to love her,” he says in one moment of angry introspection.

The memoir skips from city to city as Hastings and his close-knit crew discover themselves as young adults and try to save Serala from herself. But Seattle, where they always seem to wind up, feels like the memoir’s home base, its gritty, rain-slicked streets and wafting low clouds an appropriately moody backdrop for a story that zigs and zags between wide-eyed optimism and bitter disappointment.

“She loves different,” Hastings’ friend Jays says of his new flame at the start of this memoir. One thing becomes clear: Serala needed to be loved differently.

Readers will connect with Hastings, a gifted writer who’s now a youth counselor and manager of the Pongo Teen Writing program for kids in juvenile detention in Seattle, as he figures that out for himself.

Tyrone Beason is a writer for Pacific Northwest magazine.

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