Lyrical, Beautiful, Seductive

“Travelers have been delighted to see the footprint of man on a barren shore, and we love to see the marks of pilgrims while passing through the vale of tears.”C.H. Spurgeon, Morning By Morning, September 13

Wrapped In Rain by Charles Martin is a story of redemption and return, influenced by the loving life and prayers of the woman, Miss Ella Rain. The narrator is Tucker Mason Rain, one of two brothers raised by Miss Ella. Their father, Rex, is too busy making money to do more than hire Miss Ella to care for the boys, drink expensive liquor, and physically abuse the boys and Miss Ella on the rare occasions when he’s home. The brothers Tucker and Matthew, called Mutt, and their childhood friend, Katie return home to face the ghosts of their childhood, and are redeemed by the Christ to whom Miss Ella prayed.

Wrapped In Rain’s greatest strengths are a compelling story told in a beautifully lyrical way. The narrative style is simple and pure and believable. It makes possible a story that might be considered excessively spiritual or that suggests an unbelievably perfect life in Tucker Rain’s career success. The way Moses Rain, Miss Ella’s brother and town doctor is described illustrates not only his selfless dedication to others, but also small town culture:

“His practice policy was simple: come one, come all. And they did. From everywhere. Mose never made much money, but he never went hungry either. He never lacked anything. When his car didn’t start, he found a grateful father underneath the hood, turning a torque wrench, who wouldn’t take a penny for his services. When the weather turned 16 degrees Fahrenheit and his heater went out, he found a load of firewood stacked up next to his back door and a man downstairs working beneath his furnace. When his refrigerator quit, spoiling dinner and tomorrow morning’s breakfast, he and Anna came home from work to find a house full of saran-wrapped plates piled high with roasted chicken, lima beans, scalloped potatoes, and meat loaf. Cooling off in place of the old one, they found a new refrigerator, filled with a few dozen eggs, bacon, milk, and a key lime pie. And when a storm blew in, toppling a sycamore tree that split his house in half, the Rains came home to find a crew of eight men cutting away the tree and stacking firewood. Five days later, they had repaired the damage, nailed an entirely new roof across the house, and begun a small addition off the back porch. And when Anna died at the tender age of fifty-seven, the funeral procession was three miles long and took an hour to congregate, and the funeral home wouldn’t take a penny of his money” (page 101).

Because of the amount of back story necessary to understand the importance of events, the author mixes past and present such that it moves the story forward neither revealing too much detail nor too little. Chapter eleven and beyond are either be split-time (past and present) or very short, building a sense of urgency appropriate to Matthew Mason’s mental condition and the changes Miss Ella Rain’s prayers and the Holy Spirit are working in his brother, Tucker.

Anyone who has lived in the American South will be delighted with the humid, bug-ridden, and fried catfish accuracy of the author’s geographic descriptions. It is impossible to understand a southern summer night without understanding the sweet-hot haze of stars in the faded blanket of blue overhead, the unseen bugs burrowing their way into your skin, and the soft sound of the river moving toward the sea.

This story will touch the heart of the lonely in spirit, who need something they cannot name but recognize it when they see it:

“I inched forward, pressed the tip of my nose against the back of Jase’s head, and breathed a slow, deep, and silent breath. The feel of his soft hair on my top lip and nose reminded me of Miss Ella’s warm, gentle lips on my cheek. When she got older, they grew prickly with fuzz and quivered when she reached up to kiss me. I never shied away from that. Not ever. Prickly or not, I wanted that woman’s lips on my face” (page 236).

The book gently suggests the answers to the brutal reality of life and what comes after, with sincerity, honesty, and scriptural accuracy. There are some who would quibble with the dialogue that takes place between Tucker Rain and Miss Ella after she is in heaven, but this is a minor point, a bit of poetic license that helps the story and doesn’t harm the scripture.

Wrapped In Rain is well worth the time spent to read and enjoy it.

This book was given to me by Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for posting a review of the work.


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