Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

>> Thursday, October 7, 2010

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 272
Challenges: None
Source: Copy provided by publisher through Bookbrowse

The Short Version:
Twenty years ago a two boys in Mississippi had a brief friendship and now their lives are dramatically different yet still connected.

Why I Read It:
I put this book on my to be read list as soon as I heard about it because I’d loved a previous book of his and when I was lucky enough to get an early copy through Bookbrowse, I was thrilled.

The Book
Silas Jones and Larry Ott met as young boys in a small town in Mississippi. Silas and his mother lived in a crude cabin on land owned by Larry’s father. The boys didn’t interact much at school. This was partly because Silas was black and Larry was white but also because Silas became a baseball star and Larry remained the odd nerdy outsider he’d always been. They did spend a lot of time together outside of school with Larry teaching Silas to hunt and fish as they explored the woods around their homes.

When Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in and she was never seen again, he became the prime suspect in her disappearance and probable murder. While there was not enough evidence to legally accuse him, he was nevertheless punished by the town via ostracism and lived an incredibly lonely life.

Silas left town, went to college and eventually returned to a job as the local constable. He’s still known by his baseball nickname of 32 more than he’s known for his law enforcement reputation.

When a local girl goes missing, Larry becomes the prime suspect and Silas becomes part of the investigation which forces Silas to face things from his past that he’d rather not.

My Thoughts:
This is not a fast paced book that I wanted to read as quickly as possible to get to the resolution of the crime story. It’s a book that I wanted to read slowly and savor the words and images that Franklin paints with them. It’s a thoughtful, slowly building story that shifts back and forth between the present day crime investigation and flashbacks to Larry and Silas as teenagers and how their friendship developed and then broke apart. While it is partly a crime story it’s even more the story of both Larry and Silas.

The descriptions and imagery are the kind of writing that makes me stop on a regular basis and reread a paragraph just for the words. The characters are developed slowly and in small bits and pieces that leave the reader still getting to know some of them as the book winds down. It’s heavy with atmosphere and the tension that gradually builds makes it a quiet thriller. While by the time the investigation is resolved it’s not any surprise the other parts of the story remain enough to keep the interest level high and the story moving along.

The writing had the same magic for me as Franklin’s first novel “Hell at the Breech” without being quite as brutal. There was a paragraph near the end that nearly melted my brain because it was such powerful imagery that struck a chord with me. I can’t quote it here for a couple of reasons. To do so would give away plot elements and while it’s striking in and of itself, it has much more meaning within the context of the story. When you read the book (because you should read this book), pay attention when you get to page 251 (in the hardback edition) to the part about years and trees.

I loved the cover, I loved the story, I loved the writing and I plan to reread it after I pass it along to the two usual recipients of my best reads (The Hubster and my Sister-in-Law).

Rating 5/5


Thoughts of Joy 10/07/2010 7:03 AM  

Sorry, but I didn't read one word of your review. :( I will be back after I read the book though. I've been really looking forward to this one and don't want to know any more than I already know. Your rating was what I was honing in on and let out a whoop when I saw it. :)

Mary 10/07/2010 7:37 AM  

I like the cover and the story sounds really good. Adding it to my TBR list. Gotta love a 5/5 star book!

rhapsodyinbooks 10/07/2010 9:04 AM  

I totally loved this book as well!

Eleanor 10/08/2010 4:27 AM  

Tried to resist reading the review, but I knew you were going to be very careful about giving nothing away.

I am so in love with this book. I am having a hard time not racing through to finish.... and it's one of the few I've read via ARC for which I'm buying the hard copy to have autographed. (He's at the store on Monday.)

Really, really thrilled with this one!

Alice@Supratentorial 10/09/2010 3:34 AM  

I heard a story on this book on NPR and what was interesting to me was the title. As soon as I heard it, I heard in my head "M-i-crooked letter-crooked letter-i-crooked letter-crooked letter-i- humpback-humpback-i" and I was suprised to hear the author describe this as a technique used by Southern children. I thought it was universal. I did an informal poll at church that morning, and sure enough only two other people knew the reference, both from the South.

After reading your review I'm going to have to read this book!

Eleanor 10/10/2010 8:37 AM  

Now that I have actually finished the book I am nearly unable to breathe for the beauty of this one. For 50 years, folks have defaulted to "To Kill a Mockingbird" to provide a literary snapshot of the South, and that tendency has never really been challenged. Until now. It's that good.

Literary Feline 10/10/2010 7:27 PM  

I love the title of this book and it's what caught my eye initially. I'm more in the mood for a fast-paced book at the moment (my current read is not one of those unfortunately), but there are plenty of times when I am in the mood for something worth savoring. I will definitely have to give this one a try. You make it sound so good! Great review, Suzi.

SuziQoregon 10/11/2010 7:35 PM  

Joy: I totally understand - I often just scan for your rating if it's a book I'm thinking of reading. Trust me - you will love this book!!

Mary: The cover is just gorgeous, isn't it? That 5 star is well deserved.

RhapsodyinBooks: I'll have to check out your review if you've posted one. I tried to avoid reading too much before I read it, but now I just want to talk to everyone about it.

El: So glad to hear you love this one as much as I do. It's magical.

Alice: I was surprised to read that described as a 'southern' thing too. I'd heard and knew it as a kid, but then again my mom's family was originally from the South. You definitely need to read this,

Literary Feline: if you're in the mood for something fast paced, I'd recommend waiting to read this one another time, but just promise me you WILL read it.

Gerbera Daisy Mom 10/14/2010 8:03 PM  

Just happened to notice this at B&N and their notable book selection...I'm always skepitical about their choices...I guess I don't have to worry about this one! Better get it at the library soon!

Gerbera Daisy Mom 10/14/2010 8:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Les 10/17/2010 6:12 PM  

You wrote: I loved the cover, I loved the story, I loved the writing and I plan to reread it after I pass it along to the two usual recipients of my best reads.

My reaction: Sold! Actually, I have an ARC. Putting it on my nightstand right now!

SuziQoregon 10/19/2010 9:16 PM  

Gerbera Daisy Mom: don't be skeptical about this one. It's well worth the read.

Les: Oh I hope you like it half as much as I did. Definitely one of the best I've read this year.

Thoughts of Joy 10/23/2010 9:28 AM  

I'm back! :) I agree with everything you said! I love that it combined an interesting mystery, intriguing characters and a southern setting. Franklin done good, didn't he?

S. Krishna 10/28/2010 7:33 AM  

You know, I had absolutely NO interest in this book when I first heard about it. I received an unsolicited copy for review, and I thought "eh." But now I have heard so many great things about it, I'm going to have to give it a try. Thanks for the review!

SuziQoregon 11/01/2010 8:46 AM  

Joy: YAY!!!! He definitely did! So glad you loved it too.

S.Krishna: Oh I hope you do read it. It really is just that wonderful.

Les 12/06/2010 4:50 PM  

Loved it. I'm writing my review and had to come back here and see what you had to say. I agree. That's a great passage on p. 251! Now to dig up his previous works.

1morechapter 2/05/2011 7:21 AM  

I enjoyed this one and although I agree it was written in a literary style, I couldn't put it down! I read it in pretty much one sitting.

raidergirl3 7/15/2013 6:15 AM  

I just finished it! I knew there were plenty of great reviews from a long time ago which is what put the book on my radar. 3 years later I get to it.

It was so good - Larry is the saddest character I have read in quite a long time.
I was reading your review, and got to the quote section. I picked up the book, and was getting ready to look for it, when I got to the part about trees and years, and I knew exactly what quote it was! So good.

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