This week I read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. I chose it because it is a Barnes and Noble Recommends Book. I have had very good luck with these selections: Garden Spells, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane only to name a few. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books. I have only disliked one of the B&N Recommends selections I've read, so I do pay attention when Barnes and Noble recommends a book to their readers. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of Barnes and Noble's more recent recommendations, and it did not disappoint.
Let me start off by explaining the title. In the South, we learn to spell Mississippi in Kindergarten like this: M-i-crooked letter, crooked letter-i-crooked letter, crooked letter-i-humpback, humpback-i. Small town Southern Mississippi is the setting for this story: a town with little more than a paper mill. This is the story about an unlikely friendship between Larry, a white, lower-middle class young man, and Silas, a very poor black boy who is about a year or so younger than Larry. The boys could not be more different: Larry is a nerdy bookworm who loves Stephen King, and Silas is an athlete with a strong pitching arm. Circumstances end the friendship which devastates Larry.
Fast forward over twenty years and Larry Ott, known as "Scary Larry" to most of the town, is a lonely mechanic with very little business. His community has shunned him because they blame him for the mysterious disappearance of a high school coed over twenty years ago who was last seen on a date with Larry. Her body was never found. In the present, another young woman, the mill owner's daughter and an Ole Miss coed, is missing. The townspeople instantly point their collective finger at Scary Larry. In the meantime, Silas has returned to his Mississippi hometown as the constable. He disbelieves Larry's guilt, but he has never done anything to help exonerate Larry, either. Unfortunately, Larry befriends a younger man named Wallace with terrible habits and issues. Larry, desperate for a friend, trusts Wallace: a mistake that almost costs him his life. Silas finds the body of the missing girl and becomes determined to clear Larry's name once and for all.
This is a very well-written book. You truly have a distinct sense of place while reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. The depiction of Larry's loneliness is devastating, and almost unbearable. Silas's life, his unravelling of family secrets, and determination to do the right thing is exhausting. You truly care for these characters, odd quirks and all. This is a quick read, lots of interesting plot twists, and a hopeful ending. I could not put it down! It is heartbreaking to think how we can treat others, especially when we don't have all the facts. It is equally heartbreaking the way we treat those who are different or odd. I have taught my daughters that weird is something we can tolerate, but we do not tolerate mean. Okay, so I'm stepping off my Mommie Soapbox now. Just read the book. ;D
Until next time...