When Maggie opened her eyes that New Year's Day some seventeen months ago, I felt like I could see again. The fog lifted off my soul, and for the first time since our son had died and she had gone to sleepâsome four months, sixteen days, eighteen hours, and nineteen minutes earlierâI took a breath deep enough to fill both my lungs.
Life began again for Dylan Styles when his beloved wife Maggie awoke from a coma. A coma brought on by the intense two-day labor that resulted in heartbreaking loss. In this poignant love story that is redolent with Southern atmosphere, Dylan and Maggie must come to terms with their past before they can embrace their future.
Fans of Martin's Christy-nominated debut novel, The Dead Don't Dance (2004), will be delighted to see this somewhat uneven sequel in which Martin picks up the story of Dylan Styles, a farmer and junior college instructor. His long vigil at his comatose wife Maggie's bedside following the stillbirth of their son has ended with her awakening. Now, life in Digger, S.C., is beginning to return to normal--or so it seems. Together, Dylan and Maggie try to rebuild a life interrupted, grieve the loss of their son and ponder trying for another baby. But as the couple pick up the pieces of their relationship, tragedies--perhaps an overabundance of them--are just around the corner. "What makes the broken whole?" Dylan wonders. "How does deep-down pain, interwoven like sinew, come untangled?" Martin's plot twists, including one involving Pastor John's past that comes back to haunt him and the people he cares for, may seem like a distraction from the stronger theme of Maggie and Dylan's own struggles in taking their marriage forward. One of Martin's many strengths is in his rich portrayals of people, but he has a penchant for overusing similes, and his often beautiful writing sometimes needs to be tightened. The ending laudably offers hope and redemption without too-neat resolution. (Sept. 12)
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September 18, 2006
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Excerpt from Maggie by Charles Martindale
Chapter One #xD; Sometime before daylight, I heard it. Inches from my face, it sounded like a mouse sliding a saltine across a wooden floor. Seconds later, it sounded like the horn section of a symphony, tuning up. Then like cat purring lazily in the sun. And finally, like a woman who'd been in a coma for several months and was regaining the muscle tone she'd lost in her throat. #xD; It was one of my favorite sounds--the sound of sweet dreams, the sound of contentedness, the sound of my wife next to me--the sound of Maggie sleeping. At that moment, she was sacked out and snoring like a sailor. I lay with my eyes closed, playing possum, listening and smiling because she'd die if she knew. "I don't snore!" Unconsciously, I had paced my breathing with hers, making sure to inhale deeply enough and to exhale slowly enough. #xD; Moonlight filled our bedroom with a hazy grayish-blue, telling me the moon was high, full, and shining like a Milky Way spotlight on Maggie. I watched her, lingered there, and milked the Milky Way. Most nights she flopped around like a fish tossed up on the beach; then, on into morning, she'd settle down a bit and start spreading out horizontally. Now she lay sprawled across the bed like a snow angel, hogging all corners as if she'd grown accustomed to having the bed to herself. #xD; My left cheek barely hung on the edge of the mattress, and not a single square inch of sheet covered me, but I could not have cared less. If I ever do, somebody ought to beat me into next week. Her feet told me she was wearing socks, her neck told me she was wearing Eternity, and her arms told me she was wearing me. All the world was right. #xD; Around four in the morning, Maggie flung herself sideways, stretched like Blue, and then reencircled me like an octopus. When she settled, her hair draped across my chest like tentacles, mingling into me. Maggie's hair had grown well past her shoulders. Long and shiny, it was made for shampoo commercials. Mine, because of the coming summer heat and what would be long hours atop the tractor, was cropped relatively close, exposing my neck to the sun, dust, and dirt. When Maggie cut it, she had nodded in approval, reminding me that my grandfather would have nodded too. She tucked her nose up close to mine, where her breath filled my lungs either before or after mine had filled hers. Her chest rose and fell in an easy rhythm, and her skin was warm. Making sure she could not be uprooted, she hooked her right leg around mine like a boat anchor, stretched her right arm across me like a bowline, and then drove her right hand into the mattress like a tent peg. #xD; Reluctantly I untangled myself and slid out from beneath the pegs. I pulled the covers back over her bare shoulders, tucked the hair behind her ear, and walked to the kitchen to put on the percolator. Blue followed, stretched, and stood at the screen door, his nose pressed against the latch. He knew how to flip it open, but with Maggie around he'd grown lazy and now waited on me with an air of expectation. I looked at him, and his ears dropped. I pointed toward the bedroom. "Hey, pal, she was in the coma. Not you. Let your own self out." #xD; Blue whined, nosed up the latch, and disappeared off the porch. #xD; While the percolator coughed and sputtered--the sweet sounds of my addiction--I stepped out onto the porch under a clear sky and onto the stage of my life. Judging from the thick black figures silhouetted against the dawning skyline, several turkeys roosted in the trees that lined the river and towered above our son's grave. I couldn't see it, but unless something really bad had happened to the world, the river flowed silently beyond those trees, filling the earth--or at least most of South Ca