The Cardturner Louis Sachar
Alton's Uncle Lester is old, sick, and very rich. All Alton's parents can concentrate on is how much money they'll get with Uncle Lester dies and who else might get the money instead of them. The main contenders are Uncle Lester's housekeeper, his new age nurse, and the Castaneda family (and everyone knows that whole family is bonkers) whom Uncle Lester seems to really like for some reason.
Uncle Lester is also a big bridge player, but is blind and can no longer see the cards. When he gets in a fight with Toni Castaneda, Alton is asked to be his cardturner. All Alton has to do is tell Uncle Lester what cards are in his hand and play whatever card he's told to play. Nothing more, nothing less.
Along the way, Alton learns a lot about bridge and some deep family history and secrets, and how the stories get mangled as the family gossip travels from generation to generation.
There's been lots of good buzz about this and it's as awesome as everyone says. I totally want to learn how to play bridge now. There is a lot of bridge talk in the book, but Sachar labels it as such and gives us permission to skip the bridge-y parts and offers up a relevant summary at the end. I didn't skip the bridge-y parts, although I appreciated the warning when they were coming and the permission to skip ahead.
It also says some interesting things about mental illness. I can't go into it without some major spoilers and I really don't feel qualified to comment, but I hope someone out there does feel qualified to comment and does comment because I've been thinking about it ever since it was revealed that Toni is schizophrenic and what form her illness takes for her and there's that whole "is she or isn't she" feeling to it, especially when the truth about other "crazy" characters comes out and what happens at the end and... sorry for the vague paragraph. I'm just still wrestling with some of these ideas and don't want to spoil anything, but I think a lot of people have already read this, so then maybe you know what I'm talking about. Wink wink nod nod.
My favorite part was finding out how the Castaneda family was linked to Uncle Lester and what exactly happened there, deep in the past.
It's hilarious and heartbreaking and oh so wonderful.
And seriously, as soon as I can con 3 other people to join me, I'm going to start playing bridge.
Book Provided by... my local library
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