December 12, 2010

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
2010 William Morrow
Finished 11/29/10
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
FTC Disclosure: Barnes & Noble Recommends ARC

Barnes & Noble Blurb:

A Suspenseful Tale of Fate and Friendship.

When Larry Ott finds an intruder in his own home, the gun that’s jammed into his chest seems like the last draw of his lonely destiny. Folks in Chabot, Mississippi, had wished him dead for more than 20 years—ever since he’d taken Cindy Walker for a date at the drive-in and she was never heard from again.

But growing up an unsure, book-loving boy in the culture of hunters and hard-drinking mechanics, Larry was something of an outcast long before Cindy disappeared. Even Larry’s mother knew it, praying each night for God to send her son a “special friend.” When Silas Jones and his mother moved from Chicago into an abandoned cabin on the Ott family’s extensive property, Larry thought God might be listening. The boys were drawn together despite their differences: Silas was fascinated by Larry’s gun collection and his retelling of Stephen King’s horror stories; Larry was intrigued by the young black boy’s prowess at baseball and his social ease. Yet with racism still rampant in the rural South in the late 1970s, family and peer pressure forced the boys to keep their relationship hidden, until Larry was suspected of killing the missing girl and their bond was irrevocably broken.

Years later, they’re reunited by fate when another young girl disappears. While Larry lies in a hospital bed suspected of both murder and attempted suicide, Silas, now the town’s constable, must plunge into the painful past and excavate a long buried secret to make peace with a the man who was once his friend—before it’s too late.

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, Mudbound and The Help are sure to fall in love with Franklin’s literary thriller. I could not put this book down! And I was shocked to see that I didn’t mark a single passage of this beautiful book. Perhaps I was too engrossed to stop and find a sticky note! However, I did, however, find this fabulous excerpt from the Barnes & Noble Recommends’ brochure:

Out the row of windows in front of him were more tables and chairs and, beyond, the gully overflowing with kudzu, trash caught in it like bugs in a spiderweb. Silas remembered riding the school bus as a boy, after they’d left the cabin on the Ott land and moved to Fulsom, how the landscape blurred beyond the windows as you rode, him on his way to school, baseball, his future. Maybe, before its recruitment to bar service, he’d ridden this very bus. Now look out. Nothing but a gully full of weeds and garbage. Everything frozen. Was that what childhood was, things rushing by out a window, the trees connected by motion, going to fast for him to notice consequences? If so, what was adulthood? The bus stopping? A man in his forties, slammed with his past, the kudzu moving faster than he was?

OK, thumbing back through the book, I found this:

Rather than his father's tall pitcher's physique and blond curls and dark skin and green eyes, Larry got Uncle Colin and his mother's olive skin and straight brown hair and brown eyes with long lashes which, attractive on women, made Larry and Uncle Colin soft and feminine, seat belt users who ate tilapia.

Isn’t that a great description?

Now that I know the details of the mystery, I need to re-read this book for the beautiful prose.

From the back cover of the ARC:

Tom Franklin’s talent has been hailed by Philip Roth, Dennis Lehane, Richard Ford, Lee Smith, and Rick Bragg. Reviewers have called his books “ingenious” (USA Today), “unique” (Entertainment Weekly), “compulsively readable” (Memphis Commercial Appeal), and “brilliant” (Chicago Tribune). His narrative power and flair have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

Pretty amazing praise, don’t you think?

I’m tucking this book away on my keeper shelf. I think it might be a good read to discuss with friends. Maybe I’ll buy a dozen or two copies to give this Christmas…

I loved this novel and would like to see more written about Silas. I also think this would make a beautiful movie.

SuziQ also loved this book. She writes:

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 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 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).

So, have we convinced you?


  1. Anonymous6:14 PM

    I've got this one on my Kindle to read at some point soon. Have heard really good things about it and now that you've given it the "thumbs up", I'll read it before long.

  2. I can't wait to read this book!

  3. Glad u loved this; I so want to read this one.

  4. Yes, you've definitely convinced me... jut added it to my wishlist!

  5. This is a must read for 2011!

  6. I've been doing the yes/no reading dance with this book, Les. You may have convinced me to step out onto the floor and give it a whirl. Thank you!

  7. I loved this one, definitely one of my favorites of 2010. Half mystery, half good Southern fiction. Glad you loved it too!

  8. YAY! This one has made my "Best Reads of 2010" list. So glad to see it was a winner for you as well. :)

  9. Well, I just recently bought this book and your wonderful review of it makes me want to read it right away! Thanks for spurring me on, Les!!

  10. Kay - I read portions of this on an NOOKColor at work. :) Hope you enjoy it as well as I did!

    Kathy - It's a winner. And discounted at B&N (50% off!).

    Diane - It's one I won't forget for a long time.

    JoAnn - If you live near at Barnes & Noble, it's on sale for 50%.

    Staci - Yay! Enjoy.

    Marcia - Glad you're going to take a dip with this one. ;)

    Lee - You might have mentioned this one to me in the past. I'm not surprised that you loved it.

    Joy - You and SuziQ convinced me to give it a read. I'm so glad I did!

    Wendy - I think this is one you'll really enjoy!


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