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 linger long in the reader's mind 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.
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. 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