Monday, August 26, 2013

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

When Crickets Cry
Charles Martin
336 pgs, 2006 Westbow Press
Purchased Book

Goodreads Summary

"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.

My Summary

When Crickets Cry revolves around a man named Reese who is mourning the loss of his wife and has essentially banished himself from the life he lived before her death.  One day in town he is drawn to a young girl at a lemonade stand with unexpected energy and a scar he recognizes all too well.

Told in alternating chapters between the current time and Reese’s past beginning with when he met his wife the author tries to establish some mystery as to what happened to Reese’s wife and who he was before her death.  The first third of the book accomplished that goal, but resulted in chapters that felt choppy.  Just as I invested in his story in the past or present the scene would shift.

I abhor giving away plot detail and since Charles Martin went to such trouble to create mystery early in the novel I’d be even more hesitant, BUT about halfway through he gave away the entire ending.  To the point I could tell you details of how it would play out – not just whether it would have a happy ending.

SPOILERS AHEAD – I could not figure out how to give my thought without giving away some plot points.  Skip to Overall Thoughts to avoid.

Reese fell in love with his wife when they were children and she had a heart condition already.  He started studying the heart at a very young age – he’s very smart (pretty much unbelievably).  Eventually he went to medical school where he excelled and became a heart surgeon.  He’s incredibly successful, especially with children.  His wife is on the list for a new heart and they had decided on a surgeon to perform the operation.  A heart becomes available, but it’s an EXACT match for his wife and another one of his patients.  His wife insists it should go to the other patient. 
Side note:  This could never happen.  There are no ties in UNOS – they have eight criteria in order
·         Age
·         Ability of the patient to recover
·         ABO
·         Distance
·         Height and weight
·         Life support status
·         Listing status
·         Time on the waiting list (down to the SECOND!)

Anyway, Reese performs that transplant on his patient and returns home and goes to sleep.  He wakes up to discover his wife’s heart is failing, calls 911 and almost performs a miraculous open heart surgery in their kitchen to maintain her long enough to get to a hospital but in the end fails.
Fast forward a few years and Reese is living in semi-seclusion.  He goes into the nearest town for a few things and is drawn to the little girl selling lemonade.  Annie has a scar on her chest that he can tell means she’s had several heart surgeries.  She’s hit by a truck and he saves her life while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  From there the story unfolds in a pleasantly predictable way.  Annie befriends Reese not knowing he’s a heart surgeon.  As he gets more and more involved in her life, Reese begins to consider coming out of exile to perform Annie’s heart transplant.
Overall Thoughts
This was probably never going to be a favorite of mine.  To me it was a cross between Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult – I’ve read 2 of each of theirs and have no interest in more.    I found When Crickets Cry to be overwritten in several sections, especially the Prologue. 
"I pushed against the spring hinge, cracked open the screen door, and scattered two hummingbirds fighting over my feeder.  The sound of the wings faded into the dogwood branches above, and it was there that the morning met me with streaks of sunkist crackling across the skyline.  Seconds before, God had painted the sky a mixture of black and deep blue, then smeared it with rolling wisps of cotton and sprayed it with specks of glitter, some larger than others.  I turned my head sideways, sort of corkscrewing my eyes, and decided that heaven looked like a giant granite countertop turned upside down and framing the sky."

If this hadn’t been a book club choice I wouldn’t have made it past the first paragraph.  I laughed when I read “sunkist” cause it’s not a word – it’s a brand.  He does it a couple more times in the novel.   And the third and fourth sentences had me rolling my eyes.

My Rating
Enjoyability (3 out of 5 stars)

Relationships (3 out of 5 stars) – The main character may have had two dimensions – everyone else was pretty one dimensional.

Writing (1.5 out of 5 stars)
This book will stay with me…longer than you would guess from my review.  I read it about a month ago and had no problem writing this review.

Other Reviews of When Crickets Cry

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Stray Thoughts

Reading for Sanity

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