A Life Intercepted
By Charles Martin
Center Street, 2014
Twelve years ago Matthew "the Rocket" Rising had it all. Married to his high school sweetheart and one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football, he was the number one NFL draft pick. But on the night of the draft, he plummeted from the pinnacle of esteem. Falsely accused of a heinous crime with irrefutable evidence, it seemed in an instant all was lost--his reputation, his career, his freedom, and most devastatingly, the love of his life.
Having served his sentence and never played a down of professional football, Matthew leaves prison with one goal--to find his wife, Audrey, whom no one has seen since the trial. He returns to an unwelcoming reception from his Gardi, Georgia, hometown to learn that Audrey has taken shelter from the media with the nuns at a Catholic school. There she has discovered a young man with the talent to achieve the football career Matthew should have had. All he needs is the right coach. Although helping the boy means Matthew violates the conditions of his release and--if discovered--reincarceration for life, he'll take the chance with hope of winning back Audrey's love.
After reading A Life Intercepted, I'm kicking myself for not having read any of Charles Martin's ten novels before now. His style of writing and the quality of his prose alone propel this story to the top tier of books that I've enjoyed. And then there's the story itself: well crafted, poignant, riveting, emotional, compelling, and more. A Life Intercepted is a story of the fallen hero, broken relationships, effort to win back what was lost, and a final sweet redemption that is so inspirational and satisfying to read.
The story is told in the first-person voice of Matthew, and begins as he is released on parole after serving his sentence for a crime he denies committing, and returns to his south Georgia hometown of Gardi. I love it when an author enables me to "see" the setting, and being somewhat familiar with small southern towns like Gardi, I can say that Charles has done that exceedingly well. One example is this description of the shade tobacco barn on the property where Matthew is staying: "The aroma of manure, tobacco, earth, and turpentine, delivered in the suffocating packaging of humidity and heat . . ." But even more vivid than that is the government-owned graveyard that contained something that features prominently in the story, "the Bucket" - a scalable mound of dirt "mixed with bumpers, hood ornaments, truck bumpers, and old Fords that became affectionately referred to as 'Rust Bucket Mountain.'"
"Hatred and anger does not kill hatred and anger."
Matthew and Audrey are complex characters and I was emotionally drawn to them from the beginning. It was so easy to connect with them through a range of feelings - anger over his wrongful conviction, inability to prove his innocence against irrefutable evidence, the heartbreak of betrayal, loss of life's dream, and a willingness to risk it all in helping a young athlete. There's also a great cast of secondary characters - agent and friend Wood, prison guard Gage, and Coach Ray. I especially liked the way Wood never withdrew his friendship and faithfully visited Matthew in prison, in spite of doubts he must have had. Matthew reflects that Wood "couldn't stop my soul from cracking in half, but once a month he sutured it shut. How I love that man."
There's a good bit about football in this story - and I'm not a sports fan - but it was important to the story and actually very interesting. In fact, while football fans will love it, this is more of the character-driven type of story that I enjoy. And never again will I think of quarterbacks as merely guys with a talent for throwing the ball.
A Life Intercepted feels like a story from the heart of Charles Martin. While some may think the spiritual themes are understated, the overarching message of redemption, forgiveness, and love speaks strongly - and I kept wondering how I would have reacted in a similar situation. Charles states in the author's note at the end: "Forgiveness offered - especially when so undeserved - cuts chains off the human heart that no other power in any universe anywhere can rattle, much less break. . . . Love did what hatred could not and never will."
I thoroughly enjoyed A Life Intercepted and will be reading more books by Charles Martin. 5 stars, highly recommended.
A Life Intercepted can be purchased online at Christianbook.com, DeeperShopping, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.
Charles Martin is a New York Times bestselling author of nine previous novels, including his most recent book Unwritten. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. When not writing, his hobbies include bow hunting, working out (a blend of old school stuff and martial arts, called Fight Fit), and Tae Kwon Do, in which he currently has a black belt, though he notes he is "the least flexible person you've ever met." He lives with his wife, Christy, and their three sons in Jacksonville, Florida.
Thank you to Katie Connors and Center Street for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.