Monday, March 23, 2009

Charles Martin and "Wrapped in Rain"

It's misleading, and wrong, to say Charles Martin's novels are formulaic. They are set in the same general region, the southeastern U.S., and place always plays a strong role. Children, often abused children, are often central characters. The plots always have a love story. While there are common elements like these to all of Martin's books, his novels go well beyond the formulaic because this guy knows how to write.

I just finished Martin's "Wrapped in Rain." While all of the seemingly formulaic elements are there, so is something else -- a powerful story of love and forgiveness. Photographer Tucker Rain is returning home to Clopton, Alabama, from yet another overseas assignment. His brother Matthew, known as Mutt, is plotting to escape from the home for the mentally ill where he's spent the last seven years. And Katie Withers, the childhood friend of Tucker and Mutt, is on the run with her five-year old son Jase. Tucker and Mutt are fighting the demons of child abuse; Katie is fleeing an abusive husband. Connecting them all is the voice of Miss Ella, the deceased black woman who raised Tucker and Mutt, and Rex Mason, slowly dying from Alzheimer's Disease and the father whose abuse so shaped Tucker, Mutt and Miss Ella.

Martin writes better than well -- far better. The reader comes to know and care about these characters and to experience the light and dark of life, represented by Miss Ella and Rex. the souls of Tucker and Mutt were claimed by both the light and the dark. Resolution comes when the dark is both rejected and forgiven.

"Wrapped in Rain" is a beautiful story, sometimes violent but always true.

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