Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. William Morrow, 2010.
[Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers / HarperCollins]
With this review, I'm officially a Goober in the Okra Picks Challenge hosted by Bermudaonion!
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is the story of two men, one white, one black, who were, for a short time, boyhood friends in rural Mississippi. In 1982, Larry takes a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she is never seen again. The disappearance destroys Larry's life despite a complete lack of evidence that he had anything to do with it. Over twenty years later, Larry is alone and running his father's garage, Ottomotive. Silas has returned to the area as constable of Chabot. When another girl goes missing, Larry is the natural suspect. The ensuing events conspire to bring Larry and Silas back together and reveal decades worth of secrets.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave. The lives of Larry and Silas are deeply entwined, and Franklin deftly pulls each string of the web to reveal pieces of past secrets. While I was never surprised by the revelations, the story was masterfully written. I didn't mind having already figured out the next piece of the puzzle. I kept reading to see how Franklin would untangle that particular strand of the web. The mystery is less important than delving into the characters and reveling in Franklin's prose.
Franklin's storytelling has a natural feel that is engaging. Even the most mundane of passages sing because of the rhythm Franklin finds in ordinary actions. He also has a flair for the dialects of his characters. Every conversation is completely believable, and I felt like I could hear the characters talking inside my head. The story alternates between the present and the childhood memories of Larry and Silas. At first, I was a little shocked by the interactions between the races in the flashbacks. Then I remembered I was reading about the deep South. Then I remembered how some white people felt about black people in my high school in the 1990s. I realized these depictions were probably highly accurate even if they were a bit upsetting just like many of the things in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.
There is so much I can't say about this book for fear of revealing a strand of the web, but rest assured you will feel for Larry and Silas. You will experience sadness, frustration, relief, and hope. I highly recommend this moving story of how secrets and ostracism can eat away at your soul.