Friday, October 3, 2014

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Tom Franklin
William Morrow
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Tom Franklin's narrative power and flair for characterization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

Now the Edgar Award-winning author returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far; an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county— and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades.

My Review

It was Kemper's review that made me add this book to my shelf. It was Stephen's that made me rush to the library after work and grab a copy.

After reading Shine and Winter's Bone, I was hesitant about reading another depressing story set in the south, but I’m so glad I did.

Larry Ott had a tough childhood growing up in rural Mississippi. He was sickly and he had a stutter. He never quite fit in among his classmates, usually the butt of a joke or the target of a bully. His dad was cold, distant and unaffectionate. Reading books was his only escape, until he met Silas Jones. The two boys were friends for a short time, enjoying activities like shooting, playing in the woods, and hanging out.

Larry’s life was forever changed when popular Cindy Walker asked him on a date. Though no evidence was found linking Larry to her mysterious disappearance, he has been the object of scorn and speculation, resulting in his isolation from the close-knit, rural community he grew up in. Silas, meanwhile, has moved on.

Now 41, Larry’s days are spent repairing the cars of the few out-of-towners who visit his late father’s garage, tending his chickens, and reading his favorite Stephen King novels.

Silas returns to Mississippi as a town constable. He and Larry’s lives intersect again when another girl disappears.

This beautiful, sad and unforgettable story weaves back and forth, between the past and the present, revealing details about childhood and the awkward teenage years. It paints a vivid picture of a depressed town and the secrecy, silence and judgment of its inhabitants. While crime plays a significant role in this story, it is the friendship between Silas and Larry and Larry’s aching loneliness that make the greatest impact.

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