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Like the childhoods of its two main characters, Kirsty Gunn’s first novel, Rain, is enigmatic, brief, and plotless. And like youth, it’s over quickly but defies forgetting. First published last year in Great Britain, this poetic novel by the New Zealand-born author takes place in the summer of 1972, when its narrator is 12 years old and her brother 5. Jane and Jim Phelon are part-time orphans whose parents care more about nightly parties than about child rearing; the kids escape a world of drunken adults for a world of their own imagination on a lakeside near their home. To both, water seems a surrogate nurturer. Lyrical and often brutal images of water—from storm imagery to chlorinated pools to ice cubes in a glass of bourbon—soak every page, becoming by design Rain‘s only unsubtle aspect. Gunn sharply conveys the line between childhood and adulthood, and demonstrates that children are at the mercy of the world in which they are created. She reads at 7 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (Pierre Tristam)