When Crickets Cry
by Charles Martin

Published: 2006-04-04
Kindle Edition : 352 pages
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50 clubs reading this now
8 members have read this book

A man with a painful past. A child with a doubtful future. And a shared journey toward healing for both their hearts.

It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girlâ??s pretty ...

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A man with a painful past. A child with a doubtful future. And a shared journey toward healing for both their hearts.

It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girlâ??s pretty yellow dress canâ??t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest.

Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he's restoring at a nearby lake. The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives.

Before it's over, they'll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.

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Discussion Questions

1. Titles are always important. Why do you think the author chose this one? In Asian countries, the cricket is a symbol of luck and prosperity. What role do crickets play in this story? What do you think about Annie's comment that "they give their lives for mine"?

2. One of the major themes in When Crickets Cry is love—both the nature of love and how it affects people. What are some of the examples of love from the novel (not just romantic love, but also the love of friendship and of sacrifice)? How did each of the characters grow in his or her understanding of love?

3. An obvious symbol for love is the heart, and the author uses this symbol—doctors who "fix" hearts, people with diseased hearts, characters with "closed" hearts, and don't forget that heart-of-pine house—to draw our attention to the theme. In addition to love, the symbol of the heart can also be used to represent life itself, compassion, or the center of wisdom. How are these different aspects of the heart reflected in Reese's life throughout the story?

4. When we first see Annie, she is wearing a yellow dress and selling lemonade. Considering that yellow is a common symbol of the sun and sunlight, what do you think the author wants us to think about Annie's role in the novel?

5. Another important theme in this novel is the concept of redemption. Who needs a second chance in this story? Who offers one? Does it seem as if each major and minor character falls on both sides of the equation—both needing redemption and yet somehow able to offer it to someone else?

6. As in all of Charles Martin's novels, water is a recurring motif in When Crickets Cry. From the Tallulah River flowing into Lake Burton, to the leaking water pipe, a few rainstorms, and a recurring dream in which Emma pours water from a pitcher, this novel is full of water. Water is often thought of as a symbol of new life—such as when the spring rains bring the landscape to life with new growth and color. Discuss the ways that water represents both life, and new life, in the story.

7. Boats are another powerful and evocative symbol in the novel. Reese spends time on the lake rowing, and he also builds little "toy" boats—it's no accident they call to mind a Viking funeral—to dispose of Emma's letters. Boats can represent a journey, a crossing, adventure, and exploration; discuss how each of these relate to Reese's progression through the story.

8. Several things in this story have bbeen buried, starting with the town that is "buried" under the lake that Reese lives next to. What else is buried in this novel?

9. Sometimes it seems as if Reese is hiding behind his literary allusions, holding his emotions at arm's length. From Donne's "No man is an island" and the castaway in Robinson Crusoe, to Shakespeare's "I will wear my heart upon my sleeve…I am not what I am," the author is giving us clues as to Reese's inner feelings, feelings he is often unwilling to give free rein to. The quotations are also used to foreshadow events in the story. Which reference did you find most meaningful? Why?

10. Discuss the meaning of the scripture on Emma's medallion ("Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life; Proverbs 4:23"). What is the significance of Reese's deciding to give the medallion to Annie?

11. Blindness is a symbol that appears in When Crickets Cry. Emma's brother, Charlie, is blind, and Helen Keller is both referred to and quoted frequently. Blindness can represent ignorance, darkness, and error—or a refusal to see reality. It can also represent inner vision (as Hellen Keller said, "the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart"). Who is blind in this story, and who can see?

12. Why do you think that Reese avoided reading Emma's last letter? Would you have saved it as he did?

13. What do you think Reese whispered to Annie's heart?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Good Valentine's Day read
by bvalka (see profile) 01/12/16
It's all about the heart - physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Carol M. (see profile) 09/10/22

by Susan K. (see profile) 01/09/22

by Lori S. (see profile) 11/08/21

by Shelley A. (see profile) 11/20/18

  "Everyone read"by Debra U. (see profile) 04/23/16

A fast read with good discussion a bit reaching in parts but we screwed it off for the story'short sake. Everyone liked the energetic little girl and brother-in-law Charlie.

  "Enjoyable"by beth v. (see profile) 01/12/16

Very easy, satisfying read that I found inspiring and soul-stirring.

  "You and the Crickets may Cry"by Deanna K. (see profile) 06/30/14

This is a beautifully written story about a broken man and a little girl with serious health issues who meet and come together to help each other heal. Don't let the lack of factual medical data detour... (read more)

  "When Crickets Cry"by Donna K. (see profile) 03/26/14

All of the members of the club liked the book (which is a first). They liked the fact that they could recognize places in the book (we are in GA). Felt the story was somewhat predictable, but with a surprising... (read more)

  "When Crickets Cry"by Carole B. (see profile) 03/26/14

I enjoyed it tremendously. I have enjoyed every book that I have read written by Charles Marten.

  "When Crickets Cry"by Deanna E. (see profile) 03/25/14

Wonderful story of great loss of a loved one. What one goes through to fill that void, the guilt associated with one's loss but finding another love to bring him to life again. This was the first time... (read more)

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