>> Thursday, October 7, 2010
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Publication Date: 2010
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.
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.
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).