Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin

Esta entrada es bilingue, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en catellano.

Pan Macmillan, 2011. First published 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers, New York. 318 pages. ISBN: 978-0-330-53356-0.    

The action, as suggested by the book’s title (taken from a rhyme that teaches children how to spell the name of their State), takes place in a rural area southeast Mississippi. The argument revolves around the unlikely friendship of two men during their childhood, Larry Ott and Silas Jones. Despite their different backgrounds, Larry the only child of lower middle-class white parents and Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother, became friends.

One day, a young teenage girl disappeared after a date with Larry and she was never seen back again, Larry became the main suspect. Nothing could be proved but Larry was ostracized since then. Meanwhile Silas went to Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) in Oxford with a baseball scholarship, and their paths never cross again. Years later Silas is back, an injury prevents him from playing baseball and, as the local policeman, he is mainly in charge of directing the traffic. Then another young women disappears and two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront a past long forgotten.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter addresses mainly the roots of friendship, as well as the relationships between family members and the interactions within a small rural community, and touches other issues like racial segregation and the difficulty to be accepted when one is considered or seen as “different”.

It is superbly written and I really enjoyed its reading, mainly due to the suggesting images and to the metaphors that contains. The narrative is non-linear; with time moving constantly back and forward, and while it might be difficult to read at first, the effort is worthwhile. The pace is slow, but adequate to develop a closed atmosphere, sometimes disturbing, that will captivate the reader with its beauty. I found myself rereading some paragraphs as if unwilling to finish reading it. A strong candidate for one of the best books of the year.

Tom Franklin won the 2011 CWA Gold Dagger for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter has been reviewed by Maxine at Petrona, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, Beth at Murder by Type, Michael Carlson at Irresistible Targets, Norman at Crime Scraps, Keishon at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog, The Washington Post, Paste Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine,

Reseña: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin

La acción, como sugiere el título del libro (tomado de una canción que enseña a los niños a deletrear el nombre de su Estado), se desarrolla en una zona rural al sudeste de Mississippi. El argumento gira en torno a la improbable amistad de dos hombres durante su infancia, Larry Ott y Silas Jones. A pesar de sus diferentes orígenes, Larry el hijo único niño de unos padres blancos de clase media baja y Silas, el hijo de una pobre, negra, soltera, se hicieron amigos.

Un día, una joven adolescente desapareció después de una cita con Larry y nada mas se supo de ella, Larry se convirtió en el principal sospechoso. Nada se pudo probar, pero Larry fue condenado al ostracismo. Mientras tanto, Silas se fue a estudiar a Ole Miss (Universidad de Mississippi) en Oxford con una beca de béisbol, y sus caminos nunca se volvieron a cruzar. Años más tarde, Silas ha regresado, una lesión le impide jugar al béisbol y, como policía local, se encarga fundamentalmente de dirigir el tráfico. Entonces otra mujer joven desaparece, y dos hombres que una vez se llamaron amigos se ven obligados a enfrentarse con un pasado ya olvidado.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter aborda principalmente las raíces de la amistad, así como las relaciones entre los miembros de la familia y las interacciones dentro de una comunidad pequeña, y toca otros temas como la segregación racial y la dificultad para ser aceptados cuando uno es considerado o visto como “diferente”.

Está magníficamente escrito y disfruté mucho con su lectura, debido principalmente a las imágenes que sugiere y a las metáforas que contiene. La narrativa no es lineal, con el tiempo en constante movimiento hacia atrás y hacia adelante, y si bien puede ser difícil de leer en un primer momento, el esfuerzo bien merece la pena. El ritmo es lento, pero adecuado para crear un ambiente cerrado, a veces inquietante, que cautivará al lector con su belleza. Me encontré releyendo algunos párrafos como si no quisiera terminar de leerlo. Un firme candidato a ser uno de los mejores libros del año.

8 thoughts on “Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin”

  1. José Ignacio – Oh, I’m so glad you liked this book. And thanks for the excellent review. I, too, thought it a superb read. As you say, the pace is not fast, but the characters and the way they develop over the years are very finely crafted. And the setting’s done exceptionally well I think.

  2. I loved this book from start to finish. It narrated another aspect of the human condition, in the setting of the U.S. South 25 years ago and then today. How poverty and racism affects friendships and people’s lives is well demonstrated. The author understands human alienation and loneliness, which are so well shown that I cried at times while reading.
    In my opinion, this book should be required reading in U.S. high schools, even more. It makes quite a contribution to understanding of human emotions and relationships.

  3. Glad you liked it Jose Ignacio…nothing worse than recommending a book which someone doesn’t like. I think this will be on my best of list this year too

  4. Lovely review, Jose Ignacio, and like the other commenters, I am very glad you liked it. This is one of those special books that after reading one just wants to share as with everyone. I loved it. And very much enjoyed reading your review.

  5. I knew when I had read Maxine´s review that I would have to read this one, and your review confirms that.

    But life is not easy for someone who tries NOT to buy new books 😉

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