Thursday, June 28, 2012

Touch and Go

Touch and Go

by Thad Nodine


Kevin, the narrator, has been blind since an accident as a young child. Now 27, he's a recovering junkie just laid off from his part-time job as a reporter. He lives in LA with Isa and Patrick, who are 10 years older. They're also ex-junkies who all met in rehab. Kevin has had a crush on Isa since he met her, but she married Patrick instead, a macho, bragging con artist. In an attempt to start a family, Isa recently took in two foster kids: Devon, 16 and Ray, 10. But Isa is a huge flake, and Patrick is a jerk, so Kevin takes it on himself to help take care of the kids. At the start of the novel, they all set out on a road trip to Florida to visit Isa's dying father. But they each have their own agendas on the trip, which take them far off course. And then there's the date, which you may not notice at first, 2005, maybe not the best time to be driving through the Gulf.

A brief description of the plot nearly put me off this book--ex-junkies, road trip, foster kids, Hurricane Katrina, ugh, sounds so depressing. But I'm so glad I read it anyway, because it is amazing, and not depressing at all. There's no wallowing in misery just for its own sake, and there's plenty of humor. And the dev factor for me was HUGE. It's not a romance, but Kevin does get some action, don't worry!

The writing is top-notch. All the characters are original, not stereotypes, and yet seem very true to life, like people you might have met. The dialog is breezy and natural, but it's really Kevin who steals the show. His narration is great--lots of interesting turns of phrase, and insights into himself and the other characters, even when he doesn't quite realize it at the time. It's kind of a late coming of age story, as he figures out how to be a responsible adult, even with, or because of, all the dysfunction around him.

This is an amazing book. There are so few writers who even attempt to write from the perspective of a blind person. On the other hand, there are tons of books with blind characters that are totally unrealistic, or that just use them as a plot device. Not so here. Kevin is a fully alive and deeply sympathetic character, and also completely believable. The author clearly did a lot of research, because he totally nailed it. It's so refreshing to read about a blind character who is not bitter or angry all the time, but just kind of gets on with his life the best he can. And where I'm not constantly brought out of the story by stupid little mistakes.

This book was a PD book club selection for July/August 2012. Discussion is here.

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