Charles Martin, Author . WestBow $13.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-6182-7

In his second novel, Martin (The Dead Don't Dance ) 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. (Mar. 3)

Correction: The market forecast for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig (Forecasts, Jan. 24), was incorrectly based on an early version of the jacket art.

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 414 pages - 978-1-58547-651-0
Mass Market Paperbound - 374 pages - 978-1-59554-186-4
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