Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The Card Turner by Louis Sachar
The story follows Alton, a teenage boy who is enlisted to be the card turner for his blind great-uncle while he plays a very highly competitive version of bridge once or twice a week. Alton has to read the cards to his uncle prior to the commencement of each game and play the cards his uncle directs him to play. (I know, it sounds like a real snorer.) Along the way Alton becomes fascinated with game, meets fascinating people, gets sucked in to a family drama, falls in love, and learns a lot about himself. Like all good YA novels there is a little mystery, a sweet romance, and, of course, embarrassing parents.
The story is told in first person with Alton's self-deprecating sense of humor showing up throughout. About three chapters into the story a picture of a whale shows up on the page. Alton tells the reader that this means he is going to explain some complicated strategy used in bridge and if the reader wants he can skip to the text-box where he will summarize what was said. I frequently did use the "skip" feature provided, but occasionally I read all the material. There were also diagrams of the card in a hand which helped explain the point that was made. (I know, I know, it still sounds boring.) I read three-fourths of the book, then I found that the library had the audio version and I checked it out. I enjoyed listening to Louis Sachar narrate his own book, but the audio version didn't allow for the visual display of cards when explaining strategies or hands and so it was more confusing to me than reading it.
My only criticism of the book, and it is a small one, is that Sachar cast Alton's parents as very one-dimensional people. All they wanted was to get an inheritance from the great-uncle and they wanted Alton to secure it. All the other characters were much more multifaceted and weren't so single-minded, unless they were talking about bridge.
Sachar, the much loved and admired author of the book Holes, admits that he is a bridge fanatic. Here is an Interview with Sachar conducted by BookPage about why he wrote a YA book about bridge. It is a fun and revealing interview. Take a moment to hop on over to that page, but be sure to come back.
I really enjoyed The Card Turner and, I must admit, I am a little intrigued to try my hand at bridge, that is, if I can find anyone who still knows how to play. Whether you decide to try the game yourself is not the point. The point of this review is to entice you to read the book. I hope I've done that.