“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved”. Surely Larry Ott, Tom Franklin’s main character in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, would agree with Mother Theresa’s words. Franklin introduces the reader to the deep South, where racial tensions still dictate friendships and reading makes you an outcast in his third book.
Larry Ott has prayed for the same thing his whole life, for a friend. Twice, his prayers were almost answered to disastrous results. Same as an adult as he was a child, Larry spends his time with his head buried in a in horror novel. In 1979, he met a black boy named Silas the same age and they secretly became friends. As they approached high school, Larry continues reading his novels and admires the neighborhood girl from afar, and Silas becomes a star baseball player.
Their secret friendship may have been able to survive the racial divide but it can’t survive the high school divide. Larry’s life goes from bad to worse when he finally gets a date with the pretty neighbor girl. The night of their date, the girl goes missing and Larry is the one and only suspect. He never confesses and without a body, murder is never proven.
Although Larry escapes prison, he is ostracized by the townspeople and twenty years later, when another teenage girl goes missing, everyone is more than happy to looks his way. Larry is again the one and only suspect, the difference in this investigation is his former friend Silas is now the constable.
Franklin knows that loneliness is buried in the details of life and develops his characters in its shadow. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a study of the small mistakes in life and their big consequences. The reader alternately wants to love and hate these characters for being dense, for being mean, for being desperate. Franklin crafts a sad story in a backward place but just when the reader feels despondent, Franklin offers a glimmer of hope.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was received for free by Boston Book Bums