Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is about two men, Larry Ott and Silas Jones, who grew up together in a small town in Mississippi during the integration of schools.  Although they were separated by race and economic situations, the two became friends.  However, when Larry takes a girl on a date during his senior year of high school, she disappears.  Years later, Larry and Silas encounter each other again when Silas returns to town and a young girl disappears.  Larry is the assumed culprit, and together he and Silas must uncover the secrets hiding in the small town and revisit their shared history.

I'd heard basically everyone and their mother compare the writing in this book to Flannery O'Connor.  Let me just start by saying bless his little heart but no.  This is not the new Flannery O'Connor.  I kept waiting and waiting for Franklin to bring out the grittiness of the South with the same charm that O'Connor has, but he doesn't even come close.  His South is gritty, no doubt, but is completely devoid of any charm or interest as well.   It's not that I don't think he captures portions of the South accurately either.  I could very clearly picture the trailer parks and poverty.  But the lack of any redemptive aspects in the book - whether through characters or setting, makes the book bleak and dreary.  It's missing the personality that I think O'Connor pulled off even in her darkest stories. 

Entertainment Value
I was also really disappointed by the entertainment value of this one.  Maybe it's another example of the hype machine at work, since SO many people loved this book and have written about the suspence and engrossing nature of the story, but this was not my experience.  My experience was that the story was similar to the writing - dull.  I kept thinking that soon I would care about the characters or soon something interesting would happen but it never really did.  I'm not sure if the ending is supposed to have a "twist" or not, but it was incredibly predictable.  Predictable ending + not really caring about the characters = me wishing the book would just end already.

This was another audiobook choice.  I wasn't blown away by the narration, but that may have more to do with not being blown away by the book as a whole.  The narrator wasn't bad, but he did a sing-songy thing at times that really got on my nerves.  Other than that, no issues with the narration.

I don't recommend this one, Reader Friends.  I think there are better mystery/thrillers and much better literary mystery/thrillers out there.  AND, the comparisons to O'Connor do an injustice to O'Connor.  So don't say that anymore ok?  And if you really want to read it, you can - I mean after all this is just my opinion.  Lots of people loved it, so check it out on Goodreads if you're intrigued and you can see lots of different opinions.  Just please don't tell me that this belongs with A Good Man Is Hard to Find.


  1. I am one of the people that added to the hype. I really loved this book. The characterization really blew me away.

  2. This story had me with the first sentence! This is a fine multi-layered and fast-moving thriller but also has so much more in the way of life-lessons and emotional complexity. The excellently described 1970's background of old town Mississippi with all its southern draw and great character, the story is narrated by Larry and Silas, alternating vantage points and flashback to present. Ostracized by classmates because he was different, a stutterer, glasses wearer, subject to bloody noses, "Scary Larry" grew up and somehow remained a gentle soul.