Saturday, January 28, 2012

Touch and Go by Thad Nodine (2011)

My latest selection from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program is Thad Nodine's debut novel, Touch and Go (2011).

Our narrator, Kevin, is a struggling journalist and recovering junkie who has been clean for two years. He is also completely blind, having lost his sight in an accident when he was five. He lives in Burbank with a married couple, Isa (who Kevin is secretly in love with) and Patrick, who he met while they were all in rehab together. Isa and Patrick have two foster children, a 16-year-old black teen named Devon, and a 12-year-old Hispanic boy named Ray. Isa's estranged father is dying in Pensacola and the whole gang decides to pile into Patrick's shitty car and drive out to see him with an ornately carved wooded casket tied to the top of their car. Oh, and they've accidentally timed it so that they'll be on the gulf in Biloxi when a little hurricane called Katrina blows in.

The quirky dysfunctional family / road trip set up had me nervous at first, but this book really pulled me in. Telling the entire story from the perspective of a blind character was a risk, but Nodine pulls it off and the result is rewarding. Rarely do we have a book where we really don't know what any of the characters or locations look like, but we know how their footsteps sound and the smell of their perfume, or exactly the way their skin feels. The climactic scene in the hurricane is made even more harrowing because we can't see it, and characterizations and actions open up to the reader in unexpected ways when our primary sense is taken out of the narrative.

There are some mis-steps in the action, and the dialogue is occasionally a little off, but overall this is an energetic and well-written first novel. It's worth seeking this one out.

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