08 October 2012

Bridging the divide

Fiction | Louis Sachar | The Cardturner

Don't you hate it when you pick up a book from a genre you don't normally read, open the first page (what were you thinking? couldn't you just stop at the back cover, idiot?) and then you can't let go because the book has grabbed your eyeballs and found a sneaky way into your brain?

Yeah, neither do I. :) It's such a delight to find a book that grabs you on page one, and lets you off gently 336 pages later, with your head just that little bit expanded while at it.

So, grab this book if you want to read a story about a teenager and his granduncle, or you want to learn about the card game bridge, or how a generation gap can be, ahem ahem, bridged. Or even if you don't want to learn about bridge (he marks the sections you can skip if you want just the story, but it's no hardship to go through them).

Alton Richards' parents want him to drive 'your favourite Uncle Lester' to and from his bridge tournaments, now that he cannot see any more and cannot drive himself. Uncle Lester's favouriteness is due entirely to his exceeding richness and paucity of wife or kids.

Of course, you know that Alton will get to like his Uncle for himself, and vice versa. Ha ha, maybe not. Anyway, Alton is roped in as a cardturner. What's that? His job is to turn over onto the table the card his uncle tells him to. He is ideally suited to this critical but dumb as a pillar job, as he doesn't know the b of bridge. So how come Trapp, as he starts calling his Uncle, doesn't want his other helper, his grandniece Toni, around any more? Because she asked him 'Are you sure?' and thereby leaked his hand to the competitors. Aargh, the horror! Serves her right. But wait, she's now back as his partner? Alton's mother, in the obvious and horrid style of adults everywhere, brightly talks her into admitting schizophrenia. Ouch. Alton feels that's not fair. Moms. Roll of eyes here.

Wait, why am I on the side of the teenager, here, instead of the parents?

Anyway, Alton's parents are really getting desperate. And Alton is learning bridge instead of badgering his Uncle. Stupid teen, why can they never do as they are told? That's more parental, whew. Yeah, sounds forced, doesn't it?

There is a fascinating backstory which comes out slowly, as slowly as you get to know and like Alton. Plus a twist in the tale towards the end.

What can I say? It grabbed me on page one. I totally blame the book for assault and battery. The worst of it? I might start playing bridge. Help! Mummmmmmeeeeeeee!

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