I’ve never been much for card games — hearts, poker, bridge all seem to be part of a world that has a language I simply cannot learn. I suspect numbers are part of it — being able to count quickly and efficiently in my head, being able to see/hear a sequence of numbers and remember them, being able to do various simple operations accurately in my head. Can’t do any of it. As a result when I read that Louis Sachar’s latest book was about bridge, I stayed away for quite a while. Until a respected friend’s enthusiasm got me curious. So I read it a while back and liked it tremendously.
The Cardturner is the story of 17 year-old Alton who ends up with a summer job as his elderly blind uncle’s cardturner at various bridge tournaments. Pushed by his parents who think his doing so will put them in the running for the dying man’s money, amiable Alton observes the workings of bridge, the world of competitive bridge, and the various personal relationships of that world. Spilling out and around the cards are stories of family, loss, and love some of which end up including Alton. There’s a sweetheart of a younger sister, a slippery best friend, and a very intriguing love interest. Not to mention an I-didn’t-see-this-coming twist at the end.
Confession time — I took Alton’s advice. After noting that he was unable to finish Moby Dick because of the endless stuff about whales he writes, “So here’s the deal. Whenever you see the picture of the whale, it means I’m about to go into some detail about bridge. If that makes you zone out just skip ahead to the summary box and I’ll give you the short version.” Me? After trying a few long versions I gave up and then stuck with the short versions. Because of this I wasn’t going to write a post about the book because I felt weird doing so having not read every word. But then I figured that there might be other readers out there like me, those who are staying away because bridge leaves them cold. And so here I am waxing enthusiastic about this book because the writer gave me a way to read it that made it work for not-interested-in-bridge-me. And so I say to those of you like me —take a chance and read this book, skipping the long versions with impunity. Hopefully, you’ll be glad you did!
Sachar’s latest, a charming and unique book.