Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel
by Tom Franklin
October, 2010
William Morrow

This is the first Tom Franklin book I’ve read and I choose this book because there was so much positive buzz about it on blogs and in reviews. I wasn’t disappointed. No spoilers here. The story is set in Mississippi and the author creates a unique sense of place in his writing. You are put in mind of the south of William Faulkner. No doubt about it you are in the Deep South. The two main characters are richly drawn. Larry Ott is an introvert, book worm, local auto mechanic and son of a poor white family. Larry has become the town pariah because twenty years earlier he took a local girl on a date from which she never returned. He is accused but not arrested as there is no evidence. Silas Jones is black, son of a single mother, athletically gifted and the local constable. In their teen years these two very different boys shared a friendship that was short but deeply felt by each of them. The two drift apart caused in some part by the girl’s disappearance

The story alternates between today and the events of twenty years earlier. It is told in the narrative voices of Larry and Silas. When in the present day another girl is reported missing, the stage is set for the events that follow. The mystery/thriller aspects of this story are good but this is really a character driven novel. Even some of the minor characters are so well described – Larry’s parents, Silas’s office mate Voncille- that a fully formed  picture comes to mind. The family backgrounds of each of the main characters contribute to the drama of the story in a distinctive way. The narrative examines choices people make, actions taken and not taken and the impact and pain caused. The loneliness that Larry feels was real and poignant to this reader. This is a satisfyingly complete novel – great characters, great sense of place, great story. I’ll remember this novel for a long time.