Monday, April 2, 2012

The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar- Review

From Goodreads:
The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to hook up with his best friend. He has no money and no job. His parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner—whatever that means. Alton’s uncle is old, blind, very sick, and very rich.
But Alton’s parents aren’t the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp’s good graces. They’re in competition with his longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family, who seem to have a mysterious influence over him.
Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda. As the summer goes on, he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

Growing up as the only child of a single parent I was starved for playing card games and board games.  Somehow it always seemed like the greatest way to spend your free time, probably because I couldn't hold down a very interesting game of crazy eights with my stuffed animals (huge cheaters).  I had day dreams of other peoples households where everyone sat around the kitchen table playing huge games of Monopoly, and was sure if I had siblings this would have been happening in my kitchen.  Granted, none of my friends (who by in large had siblings) ever seemed the slightest bit interested in board or card games and I certainly never saw evidence of big Monopoly tournaments in their kitchens, but somehow to this day it's left me with this soft spot for anything to do with cards and board games.  So it was no question I wanted to read The Cardturner.

Sachar took a really unique approach to this book.  He wrote it so it could be read with, or without the details on how to play Bridge.  With the details you get an intricate look at how to play Bridge and maybe pick it up a bit for your own interest, without you just get the straight up story of Alton and his adventures with his uncle Lester and his sort-of cousin Toni.  I personally knew nothing about how to play bridge going in, but decided to read it with all the playing details.  Without a doubt some of it was over my head, but it gave me a new game to jones for in my game playing day dreaming.

Outside of the actual bridge techniques Sachar has written a really delightful story filled with a wild mix of charming cast members.  Alton is completely lovable, and along with his charming sister (who are perhaps the only two redeeming members of his home), Lester, his various Bridge partners and club members as well as Toni are all folks I'd happily learn to play Bridge for.  He has very believably written a story where seniors and teens not only hang out, but enjoy each others company and he's done it in such a way that he's made me distinctly jealous.

Mixed in with the Bridge lessons and Alton's experiences as a Cardturner is the mystery of his uncle Lester and Toni's grandmother Annabel.   Gradually revealed as the story progresses, with the big pay off in the final scenes, it was the mystery of Lester's past that will keep readers intrigued and turning pages even if the Bridge playing isn't up their alley.

My final word is this is a great book for a wide variety of readers.  If you're looking for a fun read then look no further.

The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar
Published by Doubleday October 2011 (Paperback)
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy The Cardturner on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. +JMJ+

    Louis Sachar has been one of my favourite children's writers for some time, but I hadn't known he had started writing more serious YA novels!

    I also like books that seem constructed around (or to parallel) games and recipes. I always learn something new from them. Since I don't know how to play Bridge, I guess this one will be my first lesson! =)

    Thanks for the review.