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Posts Tagged ‘fathers and sons’

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Author: Charles Martin

Wrapped in Rain is the story of internationally celebrated photographer Tucker Mason. He returns home to Alabama from his work and is reunited with his ex-girlfriend(Katie) and her son who are seeking refuge from a violent ex husband. Soon they are out looking for Tuck’s brother Mutt who has escaped from a mental hospital. But it turns out Tucker’s brother is not the only one who hears voices. Tucker communicates with his dead Nanny Miss Ella from beyond the grave as he deals with his anger towards his abusive alcoholic father Rex. Will Tuck give in and choose the life of self centeredness, greed, anger, and alcohol he learned from his father? Or will Miss Ella’s no nonsense paternal voice be able to get Tuck, Mutt, and Katie on the straight and narrow ?

The author of the book, Charles Martin, maintains interesting tension till the very end and what creates that tension varies. But there are very little loose ends left after the novels 300 or so pages. Some points in the story felt less than plausible top me but these developments created interesting conflict and I was willing to drop my skepticism in the name of story. Wrapped in Rain finds its structure and strength less in a series of linked events and more in the transformation of its central character Tucker.

One complaint I had was with the character development of Rex, Tucker’s father. He felt a bit flat. All through the book there’s basically nothing to like about him or make the reader sympathetic. This is something that might stem from the difference between storytelling and theology. From a theological standpoint you don’t have to understand someone to forgive the way they treat you, but it helps. And it is a requisite for believable characters that play as important a role in this story as Rex does that they have likeable qualities as well as flaws or some exploration into how those flaws developed. Rex is both a father and a son and I think shedding light a little on what his childhood was like may have made him a more interesting character.

Tuckers nanny Miss Ella is flat in very different way. She is the closest thing to a real mother that Tucker has but at times it feels like she is less of a person and more a vehicle for the application of Bible verses to situations in the story. Charles Martin develops Tucker well on the other hand. We’re in his head for most of the book and see him as a conflicting paradox of a man that hides from the messy reality of relationships behind his camera and busy travel schedule at times and in other times comes through as an emotionally available friend tested and proven through adversity.

I feel like Charles explored dialogue more than any other literary device in this book with mixed results. I had to read the dialogue between Tuck and the voice of his dead nanny several times before I got it on a few occasions. Then at other times, particularly near the end, Tucker’s dialogue with other characters sounded contrived and didn’t match his personality. He sounded like he had a degree in Christian counseling or was reading aloud from the pages of Wild at Heart. Hearing Tucker talk about boys and baseball earlier in the novel seems to flow a little more naturally and is rooted more in who he is as a character.

The story is mostly told from the point of view of Tucker and Miss Ella who speaks to Tucker from beyond the grave. This may be off-putting or confusing to some not familiar with the Bible. About a boy or Big Fish might speak to you better. Wrapped in Rain explores the sometimes conflicting co existence of the current medical health profession and the Biblical narrative which reflects a time when medicinal practices were more mystical than scientific and “demons” were far more widely accepted explanations for some behaviors. But by the same token the cursing and sexual content in About a boy or the lack of religious discussion in both it and Big Fish may frustrate others. Wrapped in Rain will speak to you better. There is very little sexual content or language in Wrapped in Rain. It is however far more violent than Big Fish or About a boy, though in its defense, the story is an exploration of “turning the other cheek” as Jesus would say it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Cliches

I’ve been looking at cliches lately. Most agree that a cliche is basically a worn out idea that because of its constant use has lost its meaning. Maybe it’s similar to how I feel about the ocean. It’s neat but sort of “the usual.” I grew up with it only a 20 minute drive away. To some however the ocean is far more exotic and seemingly more full of meaning. The blog “How to Slay a Cliche” sets out to rewrite some common cliches. As this blogger who simply goes by Wordsworth puts it “Rewrite or recast them and their essence becomes useful again.” Reading his blog inspired me to do just that. I selected a couple examples of cliches from one of the creative writing books I had which addressed the issue and went to work on them.

“Bone chilling cold” became:

  • goose pimpling cold
  • teeth chattering cold
  • muscle tensing cold
  • joint stiffening cold

“…sleeping like the dead” becomes:

  • sleeping like the housecat
  • sleeping like the surface of the placid lake
  • sleeping like a house with the shades drawn
  • sleeping like a flag; inhaling and exhaling the gentle pulsing breeze

“…feet planted firmly on the ground”  becomes:

  • footing like a tower
  • feet rooted firmly in the earth
  • foot planted like an ancient stone
  • feet buried in the sand like a bulkhead

After I had gotten the creative juices flowing I realized that I had used nautical imagery quite a bit. I grew up near the water which probably played a little factor in the way I write. I can see, and hear and smell the ocean just by closing my eyes cause its drenched my memory so thoroughly. Anyways I thought I wonder if there’s a story here? There was.

“On the morning after the storm the town slept like the lone tattered flag; inhaling and exhaling the gentle pulsing breeze as it hung on the flagpole. The coastline was a joint stiffening kind of cold in January, but the man stood on the beach. Fear gripped him; his feet buried in the sand like a bulkhead. he blamed himself. The perfect life he’d constructed for himself had collapsed; destroyed by the very thing that drew him there: the sea.”

As pleased as I was with the descriptive imagery of this scene and the way the setting worked as an antagonist to the mans desire to live by the sea I couldn’t help but think what a downer. This story isn’t factual. Its fiction. And I can have it end however I like. I’ve read that “the great promise of fiction is that it will tell a lie so marvelous it will contain more truth than what is factual.” One of the most profound truths to me is the reality of grace and forgiveness expressed in the biblical parable of the prodigal son. So couldn’t this man be in a similar moment of failure and revelation that the prodigal son experienced. Couldn’t he have his house pulled out to sea along with everything else he owned only to have him realize that the loving father who freely gave him his inheritance he used to build that house will meet him with a compassionate embrace, give him a fine robe, put a ring on his finger, feast and celebrate when he returns home.

Here is the story with the prodigal elements included.

On the morning after the storm the town slept like the lone tattered flag; inhaling and exhaling the gentle pulsing breeze as it hung on the flagpole. The coastline was a joint stiffening kind of cold in January, but the young man stood on the beach. Fear gripped him; his feet buried in the sand like a bulkhead. he blamed himself. The home he’d constructed for himself had collapsed; destroyed by the very thing that drew him there: the sea.

The father was tense in his chair watching the news reports. He’d given up trying to reach him by phone. The old man’s imagination was beginning to side with despair thinking about what might have happened to his son. The doorbell rang and he stood to his feet and walked to the door. He signed for the package and brought it inside. He slowly cut through the packaging tape with his keys and opened the box. The man’s shaky hands grabbed one of the books and he turned it over in his hands. His fingers ran over the raised letters of his name on the cover. Clinching his teeth he threw the book across the room. It hit one of the dining room chairs and flopped to the ground. The old man held his face in his hands and he began to cry. The young man quietly opened the door and walked tentatively into the house.

“Hey pop.”

The man looked up, the tears in his eyes turning from sorrow to joy as they flowed, stood to his feet and embraced his son.

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