Crooked Letter Crooked Letter is an exquisite novel about loneliness, betrayal and being ostracized as an outsider. No one goes unscathed in life. We all know these experiences intimately in one way or another.
One of the best things about yearly Christmas letters is when my friends make book recommendations. This was mentioned by someone I trust and it was high on my list for 2013.
People decide who we are without knowing us. It reaches an initial peak in high school which is why it’s such a painful time for so many and we never really leave it behind. The world is full of people making critical judgements that isolate us from each other. We also isolate ourselves with harsh beliefs about others and ourselves.
The high price of disconnection and the profound pain it causes are brought to life in this novel of boyhood friends in the South. People decide who you are & it’s a box you don’t have a choice about leaving behind if you are poor & live in a small community. I believe this happens in small ordinary ways to all of us on a daily basis.
Therapy is often an invitation to return to locating new possibilities within, even when the world has given up on you.
The book is about Larry who is at the center of only extremely lopsided relationships; and he naively allows himself to be used by others for their own purposes. No one values his essential goodness. This same pattern is experienced by so many in the struggle of dating because it is very difficult to sort out where are the good guys????
The power of race is another layer of this crime novel. It shuttles back in time to the forbidden friendship in childhood of Larry who is white and Silas who is African-American and then returns to the present when they haven’t seen each other in two decades.
The reader grows to care deeply about their relationship which is touched by the magic of transformation. A novel that includes depth of character, lyrical prose & transformation what more could anyone want??
The writing is rich in details which begins with the title, crooked letter is the S in Mississippi which southern children are taught in how to spell their state name. The old saying that the first sentence should grip the reader & not let go also applies to the author Tom Franklin.
Betrayal of self, betrayal with intention and the distinctly different betrayal through neglect are both delineated with great care & attention.
I was moved because one character makes amends to the other without any words, in the more meaningful way of taking actions. This book has the infrastructure that helps the reader feel the pain in both the journeys of Larry & Silas. The conclusion felt so authentic that it left me wanting to hang out in the kitchen eavesdropping on their next conversation.
We have all experienced someone deciding they know us without any evidence, of being betrayed by those we thought were our friends, of feeling profound loneliness and we’ve all betrayed ourselves. These are the universal themes that are explored in this amazing book.