Thoughts On: The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Now it's time to review the book Kenda Turner sent to me. I can safely say it was an enjoyable read.

The book in question is THE CARDTURNER by Louis Sachar. At its core, it's a YA book with bridge. As in, the game bridge. You know, one of the daily columns your local newspaper may have tucked away? Nevertheless, it's more interesting than it sounds like:

Alton Richards is in for one slow summer. No job, girlfriend hooked up with aloof best friend, shaky economy...oh, and his wealthy great- uncle went blind. For as far as he remembered, Alton's Mom has him say "you're my favorite uncle" every time she sets up a phone call. Her family is short on money, and Uncle Lester will certainly leave a hefty will.

One attempt to pander toward him involves Alton becoming Lester Trapp's cardturner at his bridge club. It's a simple task: Tell him his cards, and play the cards he tells you to play. However, Trapp doesn't show any appreciation to Alton, and that grates him.

Throw in a mysterious, maybe-crazy girl named Toni, and an unexpected love for bridge, and Alton's summer might not be slow after all...

This is a different kind of book than some of the others I had read so far this year, but I didn't let that bother me.

For instance, Louis Sachar flaunts his love of bridge throughout the book. He clearly shows his knowledge. So much, he marks sections where he goes into detail about bridge with a whale. As a result though, some of the stuff going on in the bridge game went over my head. I didn't let it bother me too much, but it's something I had to let pass.

But Sachar did succeed in one aspect: I'm now more interested in bridge. If I get the opportunity, I might play. But the mentality Alton develops over time as he learns the game makes it seem like too much of a commitment.

The plot was interesting though. Trapp's ghosts are popping up throughout the narrative, including Toni, whose family had connections with Trapp. And that family is known to be quite crazy. This provides an intriguing mystery for Alton to get tangled into.

Trapp also turns out to be quite the character with his own set of quirks. The cast was wide yet notable. What I found interesting was Alton's use of the nicknames "East and West" or "North and South" when referring to players he didn't know the name of. Quite clever.

On the other hand, there's the ending. For example, supernatural elements pop up and hijacked some of the plot. It didn't bother me too much, but it sent the plot in a direction that would've been impossible if it stayed completely in the realm of reality. The foreshadowing in the beginning didn't justify it enough, in my mind.

Oh, and the fact the stakes petered out by the end. I got this "storm the castle" vibe for the third act, but I didn't got a real sense of danger. Sure, Alton could've slipped up, but not enough threats were followed through to create tension.  He was in the green.

While it was a great read, a couple of flaws hampered THE CARDTURNER down and pinned it into a niche. If you're a bridge player or want to learn some of the game, read it. However, I can see some people being too daunted to wade through it.

I would say it's a 3.5/5.