Recovering Charles, Jason Wright’s fourth novel, is about second chances, those who need those chances, and those asked to provide them. It is a reminder that the second verse of a person’s life does not have to be a repeat of the first, and that the second verses of our lives, in fact, might just turn out to be the ones for which we will be remembered.
Luke Millward, a young New York photographer, has seemingly overcome his mother’s suicide and his father’s inability to recover from her loss. He is doing well in a career of which he is proud, and he has a girlfriend who loves and admires him. Over the years, though, he has received numerous phone calls from his alcoholic father asking for loans. Despite knowing that he will never see the money again, Luke always sends what he can, no strings attached – until the last time.
That last conversation, during which Luke tells Charles, his father, that he is fed up with their relationship and never wants to hear from him again, is the one that will come to haunt him. Charles takes him at his word and doesn’t call for more than two years.
And then it happens – a stranger’s phone call changes Luke’s life forever.
As a photographer, Luke is intrigued by the television coverage of Hurricane Katrina, drawn to the images coming out of New Orleans, in particular, finding that he cannot shut down his “photographer’s inner lens.” But the last thing Luke expects is to receive a stranger’s phone call asking him to come to the city to help in the search for his father, who has not been seen since the day before the storm. Reluctantly, so reluctantly that it seems to take him forever to actually reach New Orleans, Luke agrees to help find Charles, be he dead or alive.
What he finds in New Orleans is not what he expects. Nothing, of course, could have prepared him for the devastation and chaos that is post-Katrina New Orleans. The utter destruction, the smells, the dead bodies still waiting to be carried away, and the militarization of the city are almost overwhelming to him. But he finds something else: a little community of self-sustaining friends, including his father’s fiancé, into which he is welcomed with open arms, a group of people who love his father dearly - something that Luke, who remembers his father primarily as the out-of-control alcoholic he last spoke to, can hardly believe.
Luke hardly recognizes the Charles described to him by his new friends: a man well on his way to making a success of his life’s second verse, a man loved and respected by everyone who knows him and is missed by all of them. As his new friends help him search for his father, Luke gradually comes to see Charles through their eyes and begins to hope that he will be given a chance to put things right with his father.
Recovering Charles is a reminder to families everywhere that lives do have second verses, and that the things said in anger, and those words left unsaid in the aftermath of anger, do not necessarily have to lead to a lifetime of regrets. People can, and do, change, and oftentimes life’s second verse is the sweeter of the two. Recovering Charles is another inspirational Christmas season offering from Jason Wright, one with the potential to change lives for the better.