Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter begins with one of the most compelling first lines I’ve heard in a while: “The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.” From there, Kevin Kenerly’s expert narration winds us through the empty storefronts, rusted out mailboxes, and weeded trailer lots of Chabot, Mississippi, where Ott pays the price every day for a 25-year-old crime no one can prove he committed. Silas “32” Jones lives on the opposite side of the law as the sheriff of this “hamlet”, where he continues to build on his hero status (earned on the high school baseball field) by doing expert police work.
In addition to the murder, Franklin has woven into this tale a Faulknerian family mystery complete with unexplained photographs, hand-me-down coats, and shotguns earned in fistfights. 32’s efforts to solve the Rutherford girl’s murder lead him much further back into his past than he is prepared to go, back to a one-room cabin on the Ott property where he lived as a child with his mother.
Kenerly speaks in a journalistic tone showing neither judgment of Ott’s isolated, suspicious lifestyle nor admiration of 32’s heroism. A vehicle for the story in earnest, Kenerly allows us to follow Franklin’s carefully placed clues about the Rutherford girl’s murder and Larry and 32’s mysterious and tangled past. Kenerly does this not only without giving anything away, but by adding a detached detective tone, carving out a space in the story for our emotions.
To the open-minded listener, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is an opportunity to atone for our playground sins not necessarily to straighten out our crooked letters, but to be redeemed into something more whole. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
In a small Mississippi town, two men are torn apart by circumstance and reunited by tragedy in this resonant new novel from the award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed Hell at the Breech.
Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were unlikely boyhood friends. Larry was the child of lower middle-class white parents, Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother - their worlds as different as night and day. Yet a special bond developed between them in Chabot, Mississippi. But within a few years, tragedy struck. In high school, a girl who lived up the road from Larry had gone to the drive-in movie with him and nobody had seen her again. Her stepfather tried to have Larry arrested, but no body was found and Larry never confessed. The incident shook up the town, including Silas, and the bond the boys shared was irrevocably broken.
Almost 30 years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence in Chabot, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion, the looks of blame that have shadowed him. Silas left home to play college baseball, but now he’s Chabot’s constable. The men have few reasons to cross paths, and they rarely do - until fate intervenes again.
Another teenaged girl has disappeared, causing rumors to swirl once again. Now, two men who once called each other friend are finally forced to confront the painful past they’ve buried for too many years.
©2010 Tom Franklin (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A masterful performance, deftly rendered and deeply satisfying. For days on end, I woke with this story on my mind.” (David Wroblewski, New York Times best-selling author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)
The almost flat affect of the reader's voice. Hard to listen to while driving because of the slowness, tone and lack of emotion
The narration set the pace of the story.
A made for TV movie, maybe.
I agree with Sherrie Dunford's review, so I'll direct you there. The reviews from those I follow made this an easy choice for me, but I was very disappointed. The reader was great, but I can't recommend the book. Three stars is being generous, actually.
No. It was difficult to really get into the story. I'm glad I finished it after it was done.
As an AA female it got a bit tiresome having to hear the lovely and expressive "N" word said so many times and with such fervor to help me understand the true nature of the natives and their mindsets in this story at a time in our history when blacks were not houseguests normally received with opened arms.
I was born in Mississippi and spent many summers at my grandparents on one of their farms and was sheltered from the brutality and inhumanity that pervaded the south in my youth as I grew up in Illinois. However, in all truthfulness, I personally never actually experienced the racism that is well documented having occurred in Ole Miss, I received most of my lessons in Illinois. I knew it existed and that it was explosively dangerous, the news was very informative in this regard. My sole experience with it there came when a bunch of us kids were ushered to a back entrance at a movie theater and 'made' to sit in the balcony. It was cool to me, I always sat in the balcony at home anyway, but entering through the back was a bit creepy.
I didn't think that racism put Mississippi on the map, Elvis did that, so at 59, listening to this book is a grim reminder of just how far we truly have not advanced. We've made some progress, no doubt, but it left me unmoved. I say this because my great-grandmother was Caucasian and married to my great-grandfather, a black man, in a state that hung folks on trees like freshly washed laundry; this book didn't surprise me at all. I knew early on where it was going...
I think this book could have really delved deeper into interpersonal relationships, both interracial and intraracial ones, more substantially. It could've depicted stronger how daily life was for biracial persons trying to live innocuously between two worlds at differing points in time. It could've given a more realistic perspective of how crime really was handled by small town sheriffs and their deputies and how the law and the white citizens dealt with their 'perceived' notions regarding black on white crime then. The book touched on aspects of it, but what if it had gone deeper, more bolder and challenged 'US' in the now?
I was just hoping for so much more. I was sorely disappointed and this book left me u-n-i-m-p-r-e-crooked letter-crooked letter-e-d.
A bit late to wonder on this point now isn't it?
The performance was very well done.
I will not recommend it.
Living in the far north, its always nice to hear a different story that describes how life goes on in a hotter side of the world. The twists in this novel were unexpected and different and not where one would expect this story to turn. Would recommend this as a different side to this element of how cultures interact and when love takes form from the 'traditional' type of thinking.
I just can't get into this one. I want so much to like it but it just does nothing for me. The topic seemed so interesting and the setting had so much promise but it just didn't deliver.
Book was good, Narrator's southern accent not quite perfect, but good. and he did several voice changes well.
I liked it
This book was recommended to me, but I found it disappointing. Perhaps part of the reason was the narrator. Not really "bad", but his voice put me to sleep...literally. I kept falling asleep and having to start over. I'm also not a fan of books that go back and forth in time. I just really had a hard time getting into the story....probably was over halfway after several restarts before I finally got interested. It got much better then. I'm also not a fan of Southern writers who perpetuate the negative stereotypes of the past. I probably would not buy another by this author. Too many others to read that I find more to my personal preferences.
Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit
I couldn't get through this one. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why - it might be the story or the narration - or it might be that I needed something with some action at this time and might need to save this one to try again later. I can't say it's bad......... but I can't really say it's great either.
This was my first exposure to Tom Franklin, and I plan to listen to (or read) more, as I thoroughly enjoyed this well-crafted book! Franklin has created believable characters, and his story captures the subtleties of race relations in the deep South without the stereotypes and one-dimensional characters that are so common in a lot of books and movies.
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