Tuesday, April 12, 2011

He's a real charmer

You can't help but fall in love with Luke Prescott.
He's the charming 17-year-old raised with his two older sisters by a Bohemian mom and a religious grandmother now spending a summer with the father he's never known.
Meg Howrey's "Blind Sight" chronicles that summer of discovery.
I generally am more drawn to female lead characters, but Luke got to me.
As he struggles to forge a relationship with his father, a successful television star, he's also trying to craft his admission essay for college. Turns out his father - and the readers - gets to know him through the series of stories he writes as possible essays.
Those essays provide insight into Luke's thoughts on his relationships and his place in the world. Oh yeah, and they're at times touching, at times hysterical. I particularly enjoyed his tale of how he and his sisters acted out their grandfather's death at the hands of the Accordion Indians. (He died in Ecuador.)
One of the passages that  really stuck with me was this account of his first meeting with his father:
"We didn't fly into each other's arms or anything like that. We shook hands. I appreciated that, because I think it's better not to load a whole bunch of feelings on top of things. Like, you could have a bunch of feelings about my family history and say it's very meaningful, or you could say, "nope. Just random. Doesn't mean anything." You could say, "Oh, my long-long father, what an emotional moment," or you could say, "Okay, we are biologically related. Interesting." My point is that people act like their feelings are something they can't help, but that's not totally true. Every time you run something over in your head you are firing the same set of synapses into the brain. You can create an emotion, is what I'm saying. You have to be careful about that."
As someone who has spent a lot (too much) time running things over (and over and over and over)  in my head, I was nodding my head at Luke's assessment.
Howrey's characters don't sink into stereotype, yet seem familiar. Her pacing was swift, but not so fast I felt I was reading a script rather than a novel. And her plot contained twists and surprises, but remained true to the characters.
A most impressive debut.
- Tricia Ambrose

P.S. One hundred fifty years ago today at Fort Sumter, S.C., the Civil War began. A shout out to the late Irene Hunt, author of "Across Five Aprils." I still recall the year I found this gem under the Christmas tree, and it remains one of my favorite books about that war. Thumbs-up for another gift that year: "Johnny Tremain" by Esther Forbes. Hooked me on the Revolutionary War as well.

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