Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: When Crickets Cry

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads): A man with a painful past. A child with a doubtful future. And a shared journey toward healing for both their hearts. It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl's pretty yellow dress can't quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he's restoring at a nearby lake. The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives. Before it's over, they'll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.

I don't think this is a book I ever would've picked up on my own. But, as I'm living with my in-laws for the summer, and as this was the July book for my mother-in-laws book club, and as the host of said book club was serving "transplant" sliders (a cheeseburger described in the book, involving bacon and caramelized onions and three kinds of cheese and baked beans and a special sauce, pretty incredible and indeed, heart-attack inducing), why not participate?

First off, yes, this is "Christian literature," and yes, the story is definitely sappy and sentimental enough to be a Lifetime movie, both strikes against this book as being considered "serious" literature, and both strong reasons as to why I probably never would've picked this book up of my own volition. But I must say, this was a really enjoyable read (insofar as you can say that about a book designed to make you cry).

Here are the things I liked:

-The ongoing metaphor with the heart. Yes, by the end of the book the metaphor did feel like it had been beaten dead, but it was a deep metaphor to work with, and maybe it's just me, but I liked the medical descriptions of how the heart works and the thoughts about how that compares to our figurative hearts.

-I liked the Christian culture aspect of it. Up to this point, I don't think I've ever read anything that counts as "Christian literature," at least not a fiction book. This is probably because I'm a Mormon and have read enough Mormon fiction to believe that contemporary religious literature is an oxymoron. However, I think Mormons should take a lesson from Charles Martin, because really, the religious aspect of this book was quite beautifully done. It felt so natural, like this was just a book where most of the characters happened to believe in God, because they live in a community where people do that, and it's normal, not something that needs to be explained, or would only make sense to insiders. There were only one or two parts that were remotely "preachy" and even then, I thought it was just a natural expression of who these characters were (I especially liked the metaphor about real love vs. pornography: "a banker doesn't learn to recognize real money by studying counterfeits, he studies the real thing to recognize the counterfeits.") So don't be scared of this one just because it's Christian lit. It's more like a book where the characters happen to be Christian, and it influences how they live. Is that really so strange?

-The language. Charles Martin had some really beautiful phrases and passages that I quite enjoyed. I admit, some of the medical jargon got over my head, but for the most part, I liked the way he wrote. And despite a few inconsistencies in the timeline (pointed out by my sister-in-law, who is also married to a doctor), I liked the way the story was constructed. I would read Martin again if I came across another of his books.

Is this the BEST BOOK EVER? No. But was it a decent read about good Christian people with solid values and a nice little story that will make you cry? Yes. If you happen across this one, go for it.

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