The blurb: “The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him, he has no money and no job, and his parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester, who is old, blind, very sick, and very rich, to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner. But Alton’s parents aren’t the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp’s good graces. There is Trapp’s longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family. Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda, as he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.”
Honestly? Flawless. This book (which, in case you didn’t notice, is by the author of Holes) was flawless.
I was hooked on the story from the very first page, and I couldn’t stop reading. The Card Turner established its themes and then stuck to supporting them in a focused way, creating a lovely sense of cohesion without hitting you over the head with its insights. The character development was similarly subtle and natural, so that you got to know everyone the way you get to know people in real life—slowly and through experience, not by being told.
Alton as a narrator was extremely easy to care about and relate to, while still having a strong self of his own.
The details of bridge were handled well, with a good sense of how much needed to be explained and in how much depth to let the reader feel connected to what was going on, without making the book into a bridge manual. I’m still not sure how well I grasp even the basics of the game, but I was with it enough to know what to feel.
The story takes a very unexpected turn around 2/3rds of the way through, which jarred me a smidge at first, but in the end, it was really moving. This was one of those books that when I finished it, I just had to sit there for a few minutes, exhale, and say “wow.” It was not a story I’ll soon forget, and it was really a beautiful thing. I recognize the Sachar who wrote Holes, and it sort of made me want to read that one again. In both books, Sachar weaves a rich history and an imaginative world for his characters, and both books share a powerful emotional truthfulness that makes them worthy of lasting fame.
Soaring Eagle Award because this book was really moving for me, and gave me a lot of feels about life.