When we first moved into our current neighborhood, we went to a neighborhood party. There I met Maryann, who turned out to be a distant cousin. Maryann is also a teacher, kindergarten, God bless her. So when my friend, neighbor, cousin, and fellow teacher, Maryann, said that this book changed her teaching and the way she looked at children forever, I had to read it.
Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin is about a boy named Tucker and his half-brother Mutt. Their father is an abusive millionaire who spends the majority of his time making money in his office in Atlanta. Tuck and Mutt are cared for by Miss Ella, who is the only mother figure the boys have. Rex, the father, is rarely around, but when he is, he is abusive to all three of them. As the boys get older, Mutt start having symptoms of mental illness. Shortly after Miss Ella dies, Tucker sends Mutt off to a mental hospital in Florida.
The story actually begins when the boys are adults. Tuck is a famous photographer, Mutt is still in the hospital but planning an escape, and Rex is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's after having lost all his money to a young, gold digging wife and the IRS. Luckily, the childhood mansion was gifted to the boys early on and this is where Tuck lives. Tuck and Mutt's old best friend Katie returns to the town with her son, running from her abusive ex-husband. Mutt does escape from the hospital. Tuck finds him and they all return to the mansion and the story continues to unfold.
There are many wonderful things about this book, but I want to start with the parts, not many, that I didn't like.
Being in my profession, there are a few things I know about mental illness. I'm not a psychiatrist, but some of the descriptions didn't ring true. For example, Mutt's psychiatrist, Dr. Gibby, thinks his mental illness stems from a childhood trauma. That is much too simplistic when it comes to schizophrenia and other disorders. However, this scenario moved the plot along as they all begin to heal from their childhood. Also, at the end of the book, after the trauma has been pinpointed, Mutt only needs two medications. Really? After seven years of high doses of psychotropic meds, he is just all better on two? Far fetched.
There are a few other little plot flaws. At one point, Rex beats Miss Ella so badly that he cuts her cornea and breaks her ribs and teeth. Where are the police when she goes to the hospital? They would have arrested Rex and thrown him in jail. Also, early on in Katie's stay with Tuck, Tuck knows that she has been discovered by someone who works for her ex-husband. Yet nothing happens for weeks and Tuck doesn't try and do anything to protect her.
On the other hand, there are so many things I loved about this book. Charles Martin does a fabulous job describing some of the locals. These moments of fantastic description did nothing to further the plot, but were enjoyable and the best writing of the book. I also loved the character development of Mutt. Tuck and Miss Ella have excellent character development, but Mutt is the best.
I loved that there were so many people who were kind to Mutt when he was an adult. Dr. Gibby, his nurses, the Catholic priest, even the local barber. This isn't typical of the way our society sometimes treats people with mental illness.
I loved how the author used Jase, Katie's son, as an example of how accepting we should be of others.
I loved that for Tuck, forgiving his father wasn't easy and it took a long time, years. As the book ends, he is still working on it. This is pretty realistic. Forgiveness is hard and probably more difficult the more wrongs that have been done. But the point of the book is to say that until we forgive we can't really live.
I also loved that while Ella is a very spiritual person, the writing didn't come across as too preachy. There were only a few times when I thought things were a little sticky sweet.
Back to my friend Maryann. She told me that since she read that book, she felt that maybe she was the only goodness that a child might have in their life that day. And she will never feel too busy to help tie a shoe or give extra love to a child.
4 out of 5 stars.