Defying her powerful father, a husband honors his dying wife’s wish for a wilderness canoe trip, in Christian-fiction author Martin’s secular debut (When Crickets Cry, 2006, etc.).
Doss Michaels, raised poor in a Georgia trailer park, is a starving art student working and living in a cold-water studio in Charleston, S.C. When he rescues supermodel Abbie, daughter of upper-crust Charlestonian Senator Coleman, from a boardwalk thug, she visits Doss’s studio and makes him her personal gentrification project. Abbie and Doss, both 21, marry in a civil ceremony, alienating her father and stepmother. Abbie becomes a successful interior designer, eclipsing her father’s fame, at least among Charleston’s elite. Doss’s decor-friendly paintings also take off. Abbie leads Doss on a grand world tour of museums where he’s exposed to Renaissance work he’d only seen in art books. After ten years of marriage, while visiting New York City, the couple is horrified when a lump in Abbie’s breast is discovered. Four years of “slash, poison and burn” cancer therapy leave Abbie a mutilated, desiccated remnant of her former self, but with her indomitable spirit intact. Sentenced to hospice, she urges Doss to take her down the St. Mary’s River, where Doss once worked as a guide. Equipped with two canoes, one for supplies including a stolen cache of sophisticated opiates, they embark on Abbie’s final to-do list: ride a merry-go-round, sip umbrella drinks on a beach, etc. They narrowly escape ambush by four psychopathic rednecks right out of Deliverance. Further downriver, after Doss and Abbie encounter a friendlier group of classic-rock-loving, beer-swilling biker types, the bad rednecks return to a deserted boathouse where the duo has sought shelter. In a sensationally off-putting scene, the thugs discuss whether to rape Abbie, and Doss, this time, can’t intervene. Considerable longueurs result from much nature gazing on the river, and the least stereotypical character, Bob, a crop-dusting defrocked priest, appears too briefly.
A gruesome ordeal unredeemed by wit or much drama.