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 Fiction Review   



The Dead Don't Dance
by Charles Martin
Westbow Press, 2004
Trade paper, $13.99 (320 pages)
ISBN:  0785261818

Charles Martin's The Dead Don't Dance, set in a fictional sleepy town in rural South Carolina, is a book readers won't soon forget. 

Dylan and Maggie Stiles are excited when they learn she's pregnant with the couple's son. And like many couples expecting their first child, they go together shopping for maternity clothes and baby furniture. Dylan is purely ecstatic to see the ultrasound of his son and begins a daily ritual of talking to his Maggie's stomach. For the next few months, all is well. 

But something goes terribly wrong during childbirth leaving Maggie in a coma and their child dead. 

After burying their son, Dylan stays at his wife's bedside until a doctor delivers a grim prognosis. The doctor explains that the longer Maggie is in a coma, the less the chances are for a full recovery. 

Dylan's world is suddenly falling apart. But his friend, Amos, a local deputy, is determined not to let that happen. Amos lines Dylan up with an interview to teach English at a local college. The class is the only thing helping Dylan maintain his sanity as the days turn to weeks. But the class isn't filled with Rhodes scholars. Instead, it's students just trying to get by -- or so Dylan thinks. But the students become the teachers as they show Dylan his first impressions can be wrong. 

He becomes close to several of them including an athlete he never thought would get through the class, a student who wears sunglasses all day and another student who volunteers at the hospital and helps care for Maggie. 

The Dead Don't Dance is one man's bittersweet journey to overcoming the obstacles in his life. It is a haunting book, only in the fact that it's the story no one wants to live. It's story readers hope will never happen to them. But in the end, love and courage triumph over hopelessness and despair as Dylan realizes how many friends he truly has. 

The Dead Don't Dance is a book that anyone who has ever faced the possibility of losing a loved one should read. Martin sends his readers into a world of despair before yanking them back up by the collar. 

This book will make readers want to stand up and cheer. 

And there's more good news on the horizon for Martin. The Dead Don't Dance is slated to be a CBS movie special with Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions. About four of these are made each year. The movie, whose screenplay is being written by Kristine Johnson (you may know her from writing the movie I Am Sam with Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Penn), is expected to air Fall 2005 or Spring 2006. Martin was contacted by Hallmark within about a month of his debut novel's release. 

Martin, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, is a gifted writer who isn't afraid to show emotion in his work. Although this is his first novel, it surely won't be his last. 

Look for him to become one of this generation's great storytellers. 

Kendall Bell
Southern Scribe Reviews


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