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