I've been the straggler when it comes to reading Charles Martin's novels. Shame on me. Unwritten is my third venture into Charles Martin's work, and it seems he has yet to disappoint. A few years ago - you Charles Martin experts will know exactly when - he switched from the Christian fiction genre to the general market. Some of his devoted readers were disappointed with a book or two of his after his decision. After reading Unwritten, I can imagine he decided to do this because of the restrictions generally placed on certain language and innuendoes in Christian fiction, but that would be a guess based on this particular novel. Those who are more familiar with him probably have read or heard his explanation for making this change.
Unwritten, published in 2013 by Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, is a story about two individuals who have been shattered by life's experiences and have one person in common before they meet each other in the worst possible way. Their common denominator is an 80+ year old Catholic priest who goes by the name of Steady. He's in the rescuing business and has a phenomenal ability to plan the merging of two broken people, who couldn't be more different from each other, in order to save them both.
Katie Quinn is a world famous actress of the stage and screen who's carried unrelenting pain which originated in her childhood, carried over into her youth, and has intensified to a level she can no longer bear.
"Sunday" is a mystery man, a recluse, who fishes and hides out on the shores and islands off the Florida coast. Somehow he's made enough money in his younger life to sustain his minimalist existence. His friend Steady joins him to fish and visits with him when Sunday stops by the church to talk.
When Steady realizes what Katie is about to do, he convinces Sunday to go with him to see her. Once they are able to reach her, life changes for both Katie and Sunday in a huge way - a way neither of them appreciates in the beginning.
What Charles Martin is able to do throughout this interesting story with three unusual characters is to slowly develop each one and weave their lives together as their revelations sneak out from the obtrusive walls Katie and Sunday have built to conceal them. Broken by different assaults, Katie and Sunday share empathy they're slow to discover, mutually unwilling to allow trust to be a factor in their odd new friendship.
Damaged and disguised, they venture together toward a realization neither of them expects to find - or really even wants to. A tiny hope on life support flutters in each of them, neither ready for what happens when clarity strikes them.
Unwritten is a contemporary story of breaking free from those things which hold us captive and torment us with their painful prodding and terrifying threats of even more hurt. Those things that keep us bound to the pain and refuse to relinquish us to find a workable freedom enabling us to live.
Although Steady brings the presence of godly wisdom and faith, both Katie and Sunday in particular never quite embrace the fullness of God. There are still some grudges and blame placed on God which Sunday can't quite overcome, but the story leads us to believe the faint glimmer of hope recognized and experienced in the ending of this tale could lead to a recognition and amplification of faith.
I would say the appearance of God is visible but obscured by the elements of the story which features two people who haven't decided to allow Him a place in their aching hearts. Steady keeps them aware of the goodness of God and the unconditional love he and God has for them. He is the one constant in their tumultuous emotional reckonings.
Unwritten displays the unique storytelling and imaginative, lovely, and intricate prose of Charles Martin. With compelling characters precisely because of their oddities, they lead us on a journey of discovery which elicits raw and all-consuming pain with the hope that in the end they will survive its terror. The ending of which remains unwritten.
Highly recommend the work of this gifted novelist.
Father, please continue to supply the stories to Charles and give him what he needs to write for your glory. Bless and encourage him as only you can do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.