Tucker has an eye for tragedy and pain. A celebrated, internationally famous photographer, he has traveled the world and seen both the serious and the strange. But when his brother escapes from a mental hospital and an old girlfriend appears with her son and a black eye, Tucker is forced to return home and face agony of his own tragic past.
"Tucker, I want to tell you a secret," Miss Ella curled my hand into a fist and showed it to me. "Life is a battle, but you can't fight it with your fists. You got to fight it with your heart."
In his second novel, Martin introduces Tucker Mason, the motherless son of a wealthy, abusive alcoholic in a small Alabama town. While Dad spends most of his time in an Atlanta high-rise, Tucker grows up in an enormous manse--complete with a "chandelier made from elk horns"--tutored by an African-American widow in common courtesy, love and the gospel. After a few years, an illegitimate son turns up at the Mason compound, Tucker's half-brother, Mutt. Although Tucker eventually overcomes his gothic childhood and becomes an acclaimed international photographer, he can't escape the home place.
The story picks up with Tucker's adulthood, when he makes peace with several individuals from his past, including the schizophrenic Mutt and an ex-girlfriend who's on the run from a nasty husband. This group of Southern grotesques manages to make Christmas together and, readers sense, forge a kind of family. Martin spins an engaging story about healing and the triumph of love. The novel is filled with delightful local color--at Clark's Fish Camp, you can order shrimp or catfish, and you can have them fried or fried. While the evil characters are too caricaturish and one-dimensional, and the prose is clean but hardly luminous, this is a welcome cut above run-of-the-mill inspirational fiction.
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Charles Martin writes with the passion and delicacy of a Louisiana sunrise–shades of shepherd's warning and a promise of thunderbolts before noon.
Novelist Charles Martin has been compared to Nicholas Sparks and Don J. Snyder, but that doesn't give him his due. While his skills are similar to theirs, Martin also writes from a distinctive Southern perspective, injecting each scene with that meandering storytelling style that marked the work of Twain, Faulkner, and O'Conner.