Sunday, April 2, 2017
The author gave me this book two years ago and I have been shamefully slow about getting around to reading it.
Are you familiar with cryptic crosswords? These are popular in England; never caught on much here. Each clue is a puzzle in itself. Wikipedia gives the example of: Very sad unfinished story about rising smoke (8) which is a clue for the word "Tragical." Go to the article if you want to see how that works. It baffles me.
Which has nothing to do with Thornton's story, but have faith. We will get there.
Years ago I read about one of the famous setters (i.e. creators) of cryptic crosswords who created a puzzle in which the first clue could lead to two possible answers, one correct and one almost correct. Whichever of those you chose you could answer all the clues successfully - until the very last one. If you started down the wrong path, you wound up with one one final clue you could not answer.
And that almost brings us to Thornton's story. The narrator is a teenage girl who compares herself to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. She has been watching a lot of movies because she can't leave the house. Not because of a broken leg like Jimmy, but because of a monitoring device on her ankle. Seems she brought a knife to school for protection, and they accused her of some other stuff she denies.
When she's not watching the TV she watches her neighbors the Blatniks, who fight a lot, often about the wife's brother, Norm. Mr. Blatnik clearly doesn't want his brother-in-law around, for some reason. Like maybe he's done something worse than bring a knife to school. And now Norm is interested in our narrator...
At one point in the story there is a sentence that can be read two ways, just like that first cryptic crossword clue, and if you interpret it the wrong way (trust me, you will), Thornton will lead you merrily in the wrong direction. And that's a very enjoyable trip.