Friday, July 13, 2007

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. - Proverbs 4:23

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin
West Bow Press, 2006
Fiction (Christian); 336 pgs

Completed: 07/11/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: I pushed against the spring hinge, cracked open the screen door, and scattered two hummingbirds fighting over my feeder.

Reason for Reading: Amanda over at A Patchwork of Books was the one who first recommended this book to me earlier this year, and it fit in perfectly as my second choice for the Southern Reading Challenge.

Comments: Set in the beautiful town of Clayton, Georgia right on the shores of Lake Burton, Charles Martin’s novel, When Crickets Cry, is a soulful novel that goes straight for the heart, both literally and figuratively speaking. Seven-year-old Annie first comes into contact with Reese outside of the hardware store where her aunt Cindy works, while selling lemonade. She is a special child, strong in spirit but with a bad heart. The day the two meet is a day that neither of them will forget. Shortly after Reese leaves the lemonade stand having had his fill, a strong wind comes along blowing Annie’s cup of money over and into the intersection. Before anyone can react, a truck hits her and Reese flies into action, saving Annie’s life.

Reese long ago pushed his past behind him and is simply surviving. As Reese and Annie’s friendship grows, it becomes harder and harder to keep his secrets and the painful past hidden. As Annie and her aunt begin to help Reese heal his heart wounds, he in turn must decide whether protecting his past is worth the life of a child.

As I began reading this book, I immediately knew it was one to be savored. The writing style itself sets the tone, a gentle and measured pace, while the language painted the landscape of a small town tourist community in such a way that I was standing right inside the story. The characters themselves completed the picture, their actions shaping the story as it unfolded. Reese is a complex character; it is obvious from the very first that he has a good heart. His love and devotion for Emma were so true and touched me deeply. Reese’s pain over losing her was genuine and debilitating. Annie is a young child who had been forced to grow up fast because of her health problems. She has an innocence about her just the same and her spirit never wavers. Charlie, Reese’s brother-in-law, and Cindy, Annie’s aunt, are the pillars of strength for both Reese and Annie. Cindy especially struggles, raising her sick niece on her own and trying to meet the financial obligations that come with so many doctor’s appointments, treatments and surgeries.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I love the title itself, and the story is not only heartbreaking but also heartwarming. It is a novel most of all of love and friendship, but also of letting go, making sacrifices, redemption, and of having hope.

Christian fiction is not a genre I usually indulge in, and while this book is classified as such, it can be read and enjoyed by just about anyone. Faith plays a large part in the lives of Annie and Reese, but the novel never gets preachy nor is the spiritual aspect ever overwhelming. It’s a natural part of the story that makes sense in the lives of the characters and the events that take place.

Favorite Part: Where to begin? And once I do, where to stop? I enjoyed so much of this book. Emma and Reese’s love story; Annie and her lemonade stand and crickets; The Well; Reese and Annie’s first meeting, including the rescue; and the doctor’s explanation to Charlie about the red blood cells being dump trucks come to mind immediately.

Sense of Place: Maggie over at Maggie Reads is hosting a contest, asking readers of Southern novels to select a passage that offers a sense of place from the novel and post it along with a photo (either your own or one you find on the internet) on your blog and then add the link from your blog post on her blog. The following is my contribution along with some extra passages that I felt captured the sense of setting in the novel.

Below me the Tallulah River spread out seamlessly into Lake Burton in a sheet of translucent, unmoving green, untouched by the antique cutwaters and Jet Skis that would split her skin and roll her to shore at 7:01 a.m.

Behind me, fog rose off the water and swirled in miniature twisters that spun slowly like dancing ghosts, up through the overhanging dogwood branches and hummingbird wings, disappearing some thirty feet in the air.

The roads around Burton are a plethora of Norman Rockwell’s Americana—apple orchards, dilapidated gristmills, craft stores, comb honey, smoked bacon, Coca-Cola, the Marlboro man, and cold beer at every turn. Vintage cars painted in rust dot the pastures that flow with creeks, cows, and horses. All summer long, hay bales rolled into one-ton mounds sit big as shacks, covered in white plastic like melted snowmen until the winter cold sheds their coat and feeds them to the livestock. And farmers, those whose lives are connected to the lake yet uninterested in it, sit atop green or red tractors beneath dusty brimmed hats, roll cigarettes, and pull at the earth for one more year like a pig suckling the hind teat.

Around here, folks sit in rocking chairs, sip mint juleps, and hold heated arguments about what exactly is the best time of day on the lake. At dawn, the shadows fall ahead of you, reaching out to touch the coming day. At noon, you stand on your shadows, caught somewhere between what was and what will be. At dusk, the shadows fall behind you and cover your tracks. In my experience, the folks who choose dusk usually have something to hide.
Check out the author's website for more information about his books.

Miscellaneous: My friend (Christy) warned me that this book would elicit an ugly cry—the kind of cry that leaves the eyes swollen and red, the nose stuffed, and maybe even result in a cry related hangover. She did not lie. Of course, I’m a big crybaby anyway when it comes to the books I read. A touching moment, happy or sad will bring tears to my eyes. The ugly cry though is not one I experience often. It takes a special book to turn my eyes into the Tallulah Falls.


  1. What a post and I've never heard of Charles Martin! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos pertaining to the book.

    An ugly cry, huh? Well, I hope you cleaned up the mascara and got on with your life. :D

  2. Many, many months ago I ran across this title as I was perusing Amazon. Charles Martin has several books (that I put on my TBR list) and it seems to be a very good reputation. I'm glad you liked this one. :)

    As for the ugly cry, UGH! I'd like to pass on that part. We'll see how it goes. :)

  3. You write such lovely reviews...I have the longest list of books on my tbr list thanks to you...

  4. Thanks for this review, Wendy - sounds like my "cup of tea!" I've put it on my Amazon wishlist :) Great photos for Sense of Place too!

  5. That sounds really interesting. Thanks for the suggestion! Have a good weekend. ut

  6. You almost had me until the crying part.

    That idea of pictures for the places in the book was inspired! Gorgeous landscape.

  7. What a wonderful post! I rushed right over and put this one on my wishlist before even bothering to comment. I'll have the kleenex handy, when I manage to read it. Love the photos.

  8. Fantastic pictures! These will give some good reference points in my mind when I read this book. Which I am going to have to do since your review makes it sound so wonderful.

  9. Maggie - I had never heard of him before Amanda mentioned him to me. I plan to look at some of his other books. Fortunately I wasn't wearing any make-up when I finished the book. LOL Hubby thought it was funny--me crying I mean. :-)

    Joy - I hope you and Carrie don't hold it against the book that I cried. I cry at the littlest things sometimes.

    Courtney - Thank you so much!

    Wendy - Aren't the photos great? They are actually from Lake Burton and the surrounding area.

    Kelly - I hope you have a good weekend too!

    Carrie - As I told Joy, I hope you won't let that stop you if that's the only reason. I cry during the Christmas coffee commericals, for goodness sake. Haha

    Nancy - Thank you! I do hope you will enjoy it.

    Framed - Haha Thanks! I had fun searching for the photos. I think I'm ready to move there! I hope you will enjoy the book when you get to it.

  10. These pictures bring me back to home. I miss that scenery. Thanks for a little piece of home :)

    And sometimes an ugly cry is the best kind.

  11. What an incredible book review! I absolutely loved When Crickets Cry. I just finished reading his Wrapped in Rain. It wasn't nearly as wonderful as Crickets, but I enjoyed it very much and look forward to reading his others. SmallWorld

  12. Great review. I normally don't indulge in "Christian fiction" either (because its so poorly written and unbelieveable at times) but this one sounds like its worth the time. Thanks for the recommendation!

  13. I'm going to have to try this one. My favorite writers of Christian fiction are Athol Dickson and Jamie Langston Turner. I discovered both of those authors by getting review copies of their books from Bethany House. Most of the other contemporary Christian fiction I 've read is, as you said, forgettable at best, sometimes downright painful to read.

  14. I'm so glad you ended up reading this! I loved this book and I just love Charles Martin. I hope liking this book leads you to read his others!

  15. Your welcome, Nikki. :-) I've never been to the south (or Georgia), but it sure looks like a beautiful place.

    Sarah - I love that title, Wrapped in Rain. I should read the book just for that title! Haha I did go over and read your review earlier today--it's definitely going on my wish list.

    Carrie - Thank you. I know exactly what you mean. If you do decide to try this one, I hope you will like it. It does have some of the hallmarks of Christian fiction, of course, but I didn't think it was overly done.

    Sherry - I do hope you will give Charles Martin a try!

    Amanda - I owe you a big thanks for recommending this one. I never would have picked up one of his novels had you not suggested it. I would definitely like to read more by him.

  16. I've never heard of this book or this author before. Just put it on my amazon wishlist. Sounds like a great book.

  17. Hi Wendy! Great review, as usual.
    I'd check out this book...sounds like a great read to me. I love stories that are thought provoking and touching as well. Any book that's able to make me cry is a good book IMO. :P

  18. Thank you, Melody! I used to always tell people that the best books are the ones that can make me laugh and cry, all in one book. :-) I think it's still true for the most part.

  19. I agree with you on this one, Wendy!

    BTW, I visited two bookstores and couldn't find this book. Will have to check it online, or otherwise at the used bookstores. :(

  20. What a coincidence! I keep hearing things about this book and author today. I've been invited to a book club that's reading this one. Great review!

  21. I love the pictures you posted for sense of place. Great job. They are so beautiful and make me want to go visit.

  22. Thank you for the review, Wendy, I had never heard of Charles Martin before this, I will have to give this book a whirl! Such beautiful pictures, too!

  23. Great review once again, and those pictures, with the passages you chose definitely make me want to read the book. (And I think you're a shoe-in for that contest!!)

  24. I have never heard of Charles Martin until I read a review JUST TODAY at Amanda's blog! Now, I come over here and read this review! TBR is getting big!!

    Great Review!

  25. This sounds really interesting. And I love the pictures--gorgeous!

  26. Melody - It is Christian Fiction and so you might have to check under that section in the bookstore.

    Andi - I think there were at least two others who recently read this one that I know about. It makes it nice to compare thoughts while they are fresh! I hope you find it worth reading for your book club!

    Iliana - I'm ready to make arrangements for a vacation there! It really seems like a beautiful place, doesn't it?

    Lotus - Thank you! I probably wouldn't have picked up one of his books had it not been for Amanda. I'm glad I listened to her advice.

    Karina - Thanks!

    Stephanie - I need to get a copy of the book Amanda was talking about. That one sounds good too. LOL

    Gentle Reader - It is interesting--and I wish I could pack my bags and jump in those photos right now. Alas, work calls . . .

  27. I really like the way you've done this review and the quotes with photos section is just lovely.

  28. You've captured the atmosphere of this book so well that you really made me want to read it. And I was surprised to find out that Lake Burton is only slightly more than an hour from where I live... so why not read the book and then visit its setting?

  29. Thank you, Kelly. :-) What a great idea, reading the book and then visiting Lake Burton! You'll have to be sure and post about it when you do. Tell us if the book accurately captured the area.

  30. I just completed "When Crickets Cry." It was a long struggle with me hoping the book would get better. There was so much medical detail so it might be a good read for future doctors as some reviews state, but for me I am thinking of burning the book rather than donating it to our local book source. I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a "page turner."

    1. I am sorry you didn't enjoy it. Not every book will resonate with everyone, and clearly this wasn't a book for you. Hopefully you enjoy your next book better.


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