After reading this novel, I’m convinced Sachar can make any subject fascinating. I went in knowing next to nothing about bridge, and I put the novel down at the end not only with a rudimentary understanding of the game, but a healthy appreciation for it.
Sachar knows he’s not going to interest everyone in the intricacies of bridge strategy and culture, so he employs a very creative device known as the “Moby Dick” whale. Sachar precedes sections where potentially “boring” details could get in the way of the story with an icon of the whale and then follows them up with a short summary. I can think of a ton of novels that would benefit from this brilliant device (first to mind is Elizabeth Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN – a whale icon could have spared me that whole plodding section on the migration habits of medieval monks in Eastern Europe).
As it did in HOLES, Sachar’s storytelling shines. Alton befriends another bridge playing teen related to Lester named Toni who may or may not be crazy. Together they help Lester fulfill his dream of playing in the national bridge tournament. The novel also has a philosophical bent, touching on themes like coincidence and synchronicity, religion and afterlife.
Here are some passages I really liked.
On the eternal life of ideas:
“One way or another, the body of Alton Richards will cease to exist,” he said.
“But the idea of Alton Richards will live forever.”
“So what happens to
ideas that are not communicated?” asked Gloria. “Do they die?”
doesn’t die,” said Trapp. “It exists somewhere, in its own dimension, waiting to
be perceived.” p. 123
“He said that synchronicity was different than mere coincidence. WithOn creation:
synchronicity you feel there’s a definite connection. You just don’t know what
that connection is.” p. 144
“Maybe that’s what religion is all about. Is life just a highly improbable
coincidence, or does an impossible explanation make more sense?” p 313
THE CARDTURNER is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it on the author’s website.