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Crooked Letter Crooked Letter: A Novel by…

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter: A Novel (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Tom Franklin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6821954,248 (3.99)243
Title:Crooked Letter Crooked Letter: A Novel
Authors:Tom Franklin
Info:Avon (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (2010)

  1. 20
    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: There is a similar poignancy to Larry Ott and Owen Meany as they struggle to find their place in their worlds.
  2. 20
    The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy (fuzzy_patters)
  3. 10
    Citrus County by John Brandon (GCPLreader)
  4. 00
    Paris Trout by Pete Dexter (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both books take place in the south, though in different states. The underlying racial tone is very similar.
  5. 00
    A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne (aliklein)
  6. 00
    In the Heat of the Night by John Ball (VictoriaPL)

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» See also 243 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
“M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I.” – How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi.
Rural Mississippi, tow boys- Silas, black, Larry, white. What a setting! The way the lives of these two boys intertwines as elements of the south wind around them- racial tension, guns, snakes, poverty. I loved this book.
Surprisingly, the black man was respected- the town sheriff, but the white man was
  bettyroche | Nov 1, 2015 |
“M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I.” – How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi

CL, CL is a tale of racism, family secrets, shame, bullying, neglect, maternal love, redemption, and forgiveness that spanned 25 years. Larry Ott is the white, awkward, lonely middle schooler who loved horror books a bit too much to make any real friends. Silas “32” Jones is the black, poor boy of a single mom who for a short while lived in the hunting cabin on Larry’s father’s property. An unlikely and forbidden friendship blossoms until the father, Carl Ott, instigated a fight between the boys which Silas easily won. Fast forward to high school, Larry’s first date ever instead turned into the unsolved murder, and Larry became the uncharged suspect leading to a solitary life thereafter. Meanwhile Silas, the star h.s. baseball player, moved back to town as its constable. Their paths crossed when another murder surfaces, and all suspicions turn to Larry once again.

Touted as a mystery and/or crime novel, the main plot twist was in fact solidified mid-point with clues staged early. Everything else was easily guessed. So, why do I still like this book? Because I felt that I learned a few things. In my naiveté, I read with surprise that this tale, set in 1979, demonstrated such deep racism in the south. Describing a snake as “big and shiny as a black man’s arm, and a mouth as white as the cotton he pick” is laden with prejudice. The great divide between black and white means no dating, no friendship. Yikes, I grew up in the liberal West coast and never quite processed of the regional “sensitivities”. (Gawd, I hate racism.)

There are also several likeable characters. Poor Larry, such an innocent, lonely soul, he truly had the biggest heart, and I felt for him. Though my favorite character was Angie, Silas’ feisty girlfriend who told him to “sit your lying ass down” and “well then, what you gone do?” when Silas confessed his side of the story. And finally, mothers’ love – both Larry and Silas had mothers who loved them fiercely. Larry’s mom, Ina, cared for him through his sickly years of asthma, allergies, bloody noses, and even stuttering. Silas’ mom, Alice, worked two jobs and cleaned on the side to send Silas away for better schooling and not having to work himself. Hats off to these mothers.

Overall, not a great book, but a worthy read nonetheless – the ending still made me smile upon the second read. That’s got to be worth something!

Two quotes:

On real smiles:
“…this was the first picture of her he’d seen in decades, her light skin, hair drawn back in a scarf. The smile she wore was the one she used around white people, not the one he remembered when she was genuinely happy, where every part of her face moved and not just her lips, how her eyes wrinkles, her hairline went back, how you saw every gleaming white tooth, the kind of smile he’s seen fewer and fewer times the older she got…”

On memories – they never stay hidden forever:
“…how time packs new years over the old ones but how those old years are still in there, like the earliest, tightest rings centering a tree, the most hidden, enclosed in darkness and shielded from weather. But then a saw screams in and the tree topples and the circles are stricken by the sun and the sap glistens and the stump is laid open for the world to see.” ( )
  varwenea | Oct 14, 2015 |
I read this book because I heard it was a well written mystery/thriller. It is hard to find books like that. Unfortunately, the book was not well written, nor was it very thrilling or mysterious. Not as bad as some, but overall unremarkable. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Enjoyed this book altho it was very sad the way Larry is treated. I didn't really understand why he would choose to move back to this town after leaving the military though. Why go back to a place where everyone thinks you are a murderer? He could have moved somewhere else in the country and started his life over. ( )
  benismydog | Jul 22, 2015 |
Mississippi in the 1970’s was still rife with racial and class strain. For a short time Larry and Silas were unlikely friends. When a young girl disappears after going to a drive-in movie with Larry, he is the prime suspect in her disappearance. He never admitted to anything. As the reader moves forward 20 years another girl disappears under similar circumstances and Larry once again falls under suspicion. Silas is now the local constable, so their short lived friendship comes to the forefront as they both confront their pasts.

Although the book is a mystery, the story of small towns and friendship was what appealed to me.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 200 (next | show all)
If you're looking for a smart, thoughtful novel that sinks deep into a Southern hamlet of the American psyche, "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" is your next book.
added by eereed | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Sep 29, 2010)
added by lucy.depalma | editSCIS (pay site)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tom Franklinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barsøe, Søren K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I.

—How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi
For Jeff Franklin
in loving memory
Julie Fennelly Trudo
For Jeff Franklin and in loving memory of Julie Fennelly Trudo
First words
The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.
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Haiku summary
Black and white
secret kept, secret told
brothers to behold


No descriptions found.

"...set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county-and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town. More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades" --Publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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