17 May 2011
Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Author: Tom Franklin
Publisher/Year: Harper Perennial / 2010
Date Finished: 16 May 2011
Source/Format: TLC / Print
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
The Short and Sweet of It
When a young girl goes missing, fingers start pointing at "Scary Larry" Ott, who 25 years before was suspected in the disappearance of another girl. Soon, Larry winds up shot, and Silas, once Larry's friend, now the town constable, finds himself investigating. But why was Larry shot? Attempted murder? Suicide? What really happened 25 years ago? Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a perfectly atmospheric literary suspense.
A Bit of a Ramble
This novel has been well discussed across the blogosphere, making me wonder what I have to offer the conversation that is new. The intricate way the story weaves together, the beautiful flow of language, and the bittersweet quality of the mystery have all been discussed. The appropriateness of the title due to the crooked nature of the community, events, and people has been mentioned many times. So what I thought I would focus on this time around is a pattern, perhaps even a motif, in the story - the impact of moments.
The plot rests on the importance of individual moments in time, distinct choices characters make which have lasting effects. Sometimes these choices are thought-out, a continued affair or persistent neglect; other times these choices are spur-of-the-moment, an immediate and mainly selfish decision to do - or not do - something. These are the moments which lead to the "what-if" scenarios on the small, but noteworthy scale. While some what-ifs are grand, almost epic in nature (what if someone had assassinated Hitler in his youth), the situations in Franklin's novel are more everyday. What if I had just given the gun back? What if I had refused to come back? What if I had told the truth? Despite the almost mundane quality of the choices and the small circle which is impacted, these decisions are no less momentous to those involved.
I am not sure why this particular concept struck me so forcefully other than the obvious - on more than one occasion, characters ponder their past decisions in light of recent events. This is definitely a book about the past and its impact on the present. Two stories are being told in alternating chapters: the present where a girl is missing and Larry has been shot, and the past where two boys grow together and then apart before a girl goes missing.
I really enjoyed piecing together the events surrounding both times. Some complain that there were no real surprises or twists, but I am very thankful for that. I find the SURPRISE ENDING a wee bit gimmicky and overused. The revelations didn't slap you across the face; they slowly built in such a way that the big reveal was more an acknowledgement of what I already knew rather than a dousing of icy water.
If you haven't read this one yet, I highly recommend picking it up. While the weather here in Illinois made it impossible, reading this one on a sunny day by a nice stretch of water sounds perfectly complementary...well, maybe contradictory, but sometimes things which are contradictory are actually complementary.
This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!
You've Gotta Read This; Fizzy Thoughts; Linus's Blanket; Rhapsody in Books; The Book Lady's Blog;
I read and reviewed this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. Check out the other reviews for Franklin's book.
Question: Do you find it extremely difficult to review a book that has a wide spread presence in the book blog community?