on July 23, 2006
Wrapped in Rain is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It is a compelling, authentic story of humanity's good and evil. The southern setting is an almost cinematic backdrop, the characters so strong and authentic, that I will carry this story--and these people--with me for a long time to come.
Tucker Mason never received affection from his wealthy, abusive father. He does have a few happy memories of his childhood. Time spent with his half-brother Mutt and his childhood girlfriend Katie. And, of course, Miss Ella, the housekeeper who was like a mother to him and the only secure source of love Tucker ever knew.
Now Tucker is a world famous photographer and has done his best to leave his difficult, painful childhood behind him. But when Katie comes back into Tucker's life with her little boy, Jase, and Mutt escapes from the mental hospital where he has lived because of his schizophrenia, Tucker comes to realize that maybe there are some memories that can't, and shouldn't be, left behind. Through the ever-present voice of Miss Ella, Tucker realizes he has a choice. He can continue to let his hatred--the sins of his father--control his life and the decisions he makes; or he can lay it down and choose the harder path of love and forgiveness instead.
I listened to the unabridged audio version of this book narrated by Tom Stechschulte and it was riveting. Very highly recommended.
on April 2, 2005
Is it possible to forgive those who are unable to ask for forgiveness? Can the hurts of our childhood be redeemed? Can we ever sacrifice too much?
Charles Martin tackles deep questions like these in his sophomore stand-alone novel, WRAPPED IN RAIN. As he did in his debut novel, THE DEAD DON'T DANCE, Martin masterfully blends lovely prose, interesting characters, well-integrated faith themes, and a moving plot to create a powerful story that will long linger in the mind of the reader after the last page is turned.
In rural Alabama, two abused boys find their only comfort and hope in the 45-year-old childless widow Miss Ella Rain, the only daughter of the son of an Alabama slave. She stands as a solid force between them and their evil, alcoholic, and wealthy father Rex. Beaten bloody by her boss and paid only minimum wage, she sacrifices her own aspirations and dreams to ensure that both Tucker and his half-brother, Matthew ("Mutt"), know they are loved --- by her and by God.
Despite her best efforts, the boys' relationship with their father leaves terrible scars. Long after Miss Ella has died and Tucker has found fame as an international photographer, his bitterness toward his father makes it nearly impossible for him to lay the ghosts of the past to rest.
Thirty-three-year-old Mutt is now a schizophrenic, obsessive-compulsive paralyzed with fear at the thought of contact with germs, and committed by Tucker into a mental health facility, Spiraling Oaks. Mutt tries to scrub out his past failings by scouring everything around him clean with bleach and Windex --- cars, water towers, houses, his room at Spiraling Oaks. Kudos goes to Martin for his handling of the damaged character of Mutt, who evokes disgust, fear, sympathy, and finally deep compassion.
Tucker and Mutt's lives are about to intersect with their childhood friend Katie, now an abused wife fleeing her husband, and mother of the endearing little boy Jase. The relationship between Tucker and Katie unfolds sweetly and slowly, in one of the better romantic portrayals in Christian fiction. Wisely, Martin resists the need to tie up all the loose ends of their relationship, which has grown more complicated by the book's end. He leaves it in a strong moment --- with a love on Tucker's part that eerily echoes the sacrificial love of Miss Ella. And indeed, the ghostly voice of Miss Ella, speaking in italics to Tucker, is never too far away. "Forgive men and your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you don't, you're the one who will suffer."
Martin has a lovely way with words, thought sometimes a bit long-winded: "South of Jacksonville, the river's waist bulges to three miles wide, sparking little spurs or creeks peopled by barnacled marinas and long-established fish camps where the people are good and most of their stories are as winding as the river." In his hands, even a description of the residents of Spiraling Oaks and their medications reads like poetry: "Only a handful were ingesting lithium plus three. These were the lifers. The go-figures. The no-hopers. The why-were-they-borns."
Readers will have a few quibbles. Martin's greatest strength --- his characters --- is also his greatest weakness. He takes delight in drawing them for us, right down to the smallest detail, and the results are often rich, vivid, and compelling. We come to know them intimately --- what motivates them, what their dreams are --- and we care about the outcome of their stories. However, the descriptions of minor characters, such as Missy and Bessie, often get more than their rightful share of page space, right down to the toe rings, which slows the story. In his attempt to portray the evil Rex, Martin overdraws him in a way that strains credibility. Readers also will find an occasional contradiction (the "wait time" at Clark's seafood restaurant "never dipped under an hour," yet later, characters are seated in 20 minutes).
But these are small problems. Martin's tremendous talent is evident throughout, as he shows the power of forgiveness and of sacrifice. The choices to do both are presented as painfully difficult, counter-intuitive --- choices that can only be made with the power of God behind them. And that is the beauty of WRAPPED IN RAIN --- that we can make these choices, with the help of God, if we dare let go of our bitterness, our anger, and our grief over the hurts of the past. This fine novel exemplifies many of the best elements of evangelical Christian fiction.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby
on September 7, 2005
Wrapped in Rain is one of the best books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Parts of the book made me laugh out loud and others made me cry. The characters were well developed and real. Mr. Martin used a variety of techniques such as flashbacks that allowed me to better understand and relate to Mutt, Katie, Miss Ella, and Tucker. Mr. Martin has a way with words; his descriptions of the characters, various situations, and setting allowed the reader to get more involved in the book. The book was crafted in such a way that I quickly got lost in the story and was deeply moved by all the emotion the book possessed. The book's messages of love, forgiveness, and healing were touching.
on June 1, 2005
This book wrapped me in tears, laughter and healing. Although I have read and been blessed by both non-fiction and fiction books about abuse and recovery, very few have spoken to my heart with the depth and power of this one. Martin writes so vividly that reading it was like watching a really good movie. My eldest daughter is also an avid reader, so when I finished it, I went and handed it to her. With tears dripping off my chin, I hiccuped and said, "You GOTTA read this!" She cocked an eyebrow and said, "Happy tears?" I nodded and sniffed, "Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh."
on September 6, 2005
This beautiful novel brought me to tears many times during the course of reading it. Unlike many novels today, it actually has likable characters that I enjoyed spending time with and will miss now that I've finished it. Martin's descriptions are powerful and full of depth. The title has several meanings that come gradually through reading. This isn't a book with lots of action or suspense. It's a book about true life with real people where sometimes the most dramatic things are the truest. I wish I knew a Mama Ella. Mutt's dream is possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever read. Read this book and pass it on to your friends.
on April 17, 2006
I truly appreciate Charles Martin's ability to tell a difficult story without all the vulgarity common in today's books. He gives enough of the details to let the reader understand the story, but keeps the focus on the people who made a difference. All of the author's books stay with you even after you're done.
on May 19, 2006
Of the 30+ books I read so far this year, Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin outshone them all. This southern coming home novel is filled with compelling characters, bittersweet moments, and a lesson for all of us.
At the age of six, Tucker Mason's secluded life at Waverly Hall becomes a little more bearable. His father, Rex Mason, arrives one night with a boy in tow and offers eight words of introduction. "This is Matthew . . . Mason. Apparently, he's my son." The two boys are left in the care of Miss Ella Rain, a local woman hired by Rex to keep them out of sight.
As adults, Tucker and Mutt (Matthew) now struggle with the memories of a childhood at the hands of a father who didn't want them and memories of "Mama" Ella's death.
Tucker returns home from a photo shoot late at night to find a woman and child stranded on the side of the road. He offers them shelter for the night and puts them up in Miss Ella's house, only to discover the woman is Katie, a childhood friend now running from an abusive husband.
When Mutt escapes from the mental hospital, Tucker is faced with the decision to place Mutt in a more secure facility. Against medical advice, Tucker chooses instead to take Mutt back to Waverly Hall.
Can their former childhood home help ease the voices in Mutt's head, and can Miss Ella's soft promptings help Tucker reconcile his past and place a hope for a future in his heart?
Wrapped in Rain had me laughing out loud one minute, and crying the next. Charles Martin has a gift for bringing his characters to life and placing them firmly in the reader's heart. My heart broke many times for Mutt. His antics were both funny and poignant, and helped me understand the mind of someone battling a mental illness. From Miss Ella, I learned that strength resides in the meek. This woman of faith was strong under adversity, and her legacy to the boys was one of soft spoken words to guide them and endless hours on her knees in prayer. And then there was little Jase, the son of Tucker's old girlfriend, Katie. His sweet innocence was both refreshing and heartwarming.
If you only read one book this year, read Wrapped in Rain. Let it soothe your heart and bring you before the Throne Room.
on March 17, 2007
Tucker Mason lived a miserable childhood because of his cruel, alcoholic father, Rex, who was too busy making money to pay much attention to his sons. The only saving grace for Tucker was Miss Ella, the God-fearing black woman who was charged with taking care of Tucker and his brother Mutt. She taught him what the Bible says, despite Rex's command that she was not to take the boys to church.
A chance meeting with an old friend turns into a reunion for Tucker and the brother he had left in a mental hospital. While Mutt's head is filled with voices which are the residue of Rex's cruelty and Mutt's own feelings of guilt, Tucker's inside voice it that of Miss Ella, urging him to make his peace with his father and be able to clease himself of past hatreds.
Charles Martin has an uncanny ability to take terrible subject matter and turn it into something hopeful and positive. His books are always uplifting and cause the reader to really think about life in a deeper and more positive way.
on June 9, 2015
Charles Martin writes a wonderful story, but now that I have read more than a few, I see the same things marring the total experience - he rushes or underdevelops some of the characters, and the ends are very neatly tied up, so once you have read a few, you know the ending will be just fine and everyone will be happy. So, a nice escape from reality - which I admit I need occassionally - but not the stuff of serious fiction.
In this book, a young boy grows up regularly abused by his father who is a very successful businessman, but a real bore as a father. He is raised by a wonderful southern mammy named Miss Ella, who is also abused by the father (Rex). Rex brings home another "son" who turns out to have serious mental problems which cause Tuck (the main character) to take him to a home for mentall ill after Miss Ella dies and he can no longer care for him. The brother escapes (after 10 years) at the same time that a former girlfriend shows up in Tuck's life - the girlfriend and her young son have also been abused by her husband and they are hiding. So all of a sudden Tuck is dealing with a lot of stuff from the past. All throughout the adult years, Miss Ella speaks to him from the beyond reminding him of who he is and how he should act. It is a wonderful moral and Christian tale, but the premise is fairly hard to imagine, and as I said earlier, it comes together too perfectly at the end. For instance, the brother who has very serious menal health challenges remembers something and is close to cured - not real at all, even though the psychiatrist at the hospital had told Tuck that there seemed to be something very deep troubling him that if they could figure out what it was might relieve some of the psychosis.
Understand, my comments don't mean that I won't read another of his books. They have similar themes, but are a good quick read and nice escape with pacing that makes them just fine for a Sunday afternoon.
on February 25, 2014
I read a lot. I read a lot of authors. I cannot read anyone else right now - Charles Martin has my attention. I read "When Crickets Cry" a couple of years ago and was amazed by his descriptive writing. You can actually FEEL what he writes! You can HEAR the sounds, SEE the sun shining in through the back of the barn. I buy from a used bookstore, so I never found anymore of his books - that is an indication to me that people are keeping his books! Then on a boon day, I found two more of his books. I devoured, "The Dead Don't Dance", bought the sequel - "Maggie" - on my Kindle because I couldn't wait to search for a used copy. And then read "Where the River Ends" and "The Mountain Between Us". All in a month!! (I think I have three more books to go - with pleasure!) I tried to pick up another author, but simply could not get enough, so I bought "Wrapped In Rain" on my Kindle. This one is by far my favorite so far!! Incredible characters, such description. I could SEE everything he said! Thank you Mrs. Martin for supporting your husband in his dream to write! What a waste if he had taken that job offer and "written on the side"!! Oh, and uh.....having just finished "Wrapped In Rain".....I kind of now miss Mutt! ;-)