Title: The Cardturner
Author: Louis Sachar
Publication Date: May 11, 2010
hardcover, 352 pages
When Alton's ageing, blind uncle asks him to attend bridge games with him, he agrees. After all, it's better than a crappy summer job in the local shopping mall, and Alton's mother thinks it might secure their way to a good inheritance sometime in the future. But, like all apparently casual choices in any of Louis Sachar's wonderful books, this choice soon turns out to be a lot more complex than Alton could ever have imagined. As his relationship with his uncle develops, and he meets the very attractive Toni, deeply buried secrets are uncovered and a romance that spans decades is finally brought to a conclusion. Alton's mother is in for a surprise! - Summary from Goodreads
When I first heard/realized that this book was about bridge, I instantly thought about how it was definitely going to have boring, slow parts wherever bridge was involved, so I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about picking it up. However, Louis Sachar is one of my all time favorite authors, ever since I read his genious mastermind book, Holes. The Cardturner turned out to be hilarious from the start. Alton Richards, the main character, pretty much had the average personality of a teenager. But I found his life story to be much more interesting than that of a normal teen, especially because it was largely effected by his grumpy, bridge loving rich uncle, and his wacky-crazy-not-rich parents. Both those components concocted the multiple humorous moments in the story. One of my favorite family moments is in the beginning, when Alton is on the phone with Uncle Lester for a attempt at a friendly conversation that fails because of Lester's reclusive personality. His mom continuously pesters Alton to tell Uncle Lester that he loves him, and he's his favorite uncle. Alton describes his mothers tone: "Her voice infused with the same forced enthusiasm she used to describe the deliciousness of canned peas." Anyways, even if i'm the only one who's still here right now, I thought it was pretty clever. When Uncle Lester's health made a turn for the worse, it enticed me to go deeper into the book.
The cover is a mystery I still have yet to uncover. It's a mystery because I don't understand what it has to do with the book at all. There's a boy lying down on a couple benches at a subway station, with a book on his face. Alton, perhaps? I don't recall any scenes where that particular moment or setting for that matter is even in the story. If anyone has any guesses, I would love to hear them!
The parts of the book that were made up of Bridge explanations were definitely not as boring as I had expected. The way Sachar tried to make you accumulate knowledge about the game was EASY to understand. Squeezes, trumps, no-trumps, cardinal directions, doubling, re-doubling, Yarboroughs and bidding were only a few of the many parts of Bridge that I learned from reading The Cardturner. Every explanation was put in the simplest way possible, and even if you didn't bother to read those parts, there was always a section outlined by a black box that summed up the section's 'lesson'. There were still quite a few parts that I didn't follow, and even then, they weren't extremely important to know. It was interesting to learn that there was such a thing as a cardturner, who reads out loud the cards that their player has to them and plays the cards according to what the player tells them to play. To Alton, it turned out to be much more than a simple job for his blind uncle.
I grew fond of Uncle Lester after he grew blind, early on in the book. When Lester did talk (because he rarely did) , for the most part, he was inspiring. Sachar had a clever explanation of how to memorize cards, using the words b-o-y-g-i-r-l-c-a-t-d-o-g and simply mixing up the letters, and then putting that technique into Uncle Lester's hands.
My absolute most favorite part of the book is at page 144.
I learned something bewildering at that page.
Something called SYNCHRONICITY.
Okay, moving on from the dramatics. Synchronicity is by far the coolest word I have ever learned. "It's when two related things occur without any apparent cause-and-effect." "synchronicity was different from a mere coincidence. With synchronicity you feel that there's a difinite connection. You just don't know what that connection is."
Story Example: When Alton remembered that one day, years ago, he thought randomly thought about a kid who used to be his neighbor and was also in his grade named Doug. They were not friends, and all he remembered was that he asked Doug to be his buddy for a field trip because Doug looked lonely. The day after he had the flashback memory of the field trip, his dad told him that Doug died in a car crash the previous day. Does that seem like synchronicity to you? It does to me. I thought that was pretty amazing! Synchronicity is the coolest and most useful piece of information I have stumbled upon in a book.
The Bridge journey with blind Uncle Lester and the kid who dealt his cards, Alton, was more than just explaining a bunch of games they played together. It was about meeting inspiring and peculiar people, learning life lessons, solving personal problems, strong bonding, and falling in love. It wasn't just a book about bridge. It was also the story of the Richards-Castenada family mystery, which involved Alton's loony/crazy dead great-aunt, Annabel King, who Sachar writes about deceptively in a way to infer that, well, she may not be completely dead after all.
It was also the story of Toni Castenada, her love of the game Bridge, and her wacky explanation to why she was being so rude and said shut up loudly to Alton's face when they first met.
It was the story of Alton and his conscience, Uncle Lester, and how they worked together somehow, without actually physically being in the same room, to bring them to the biggest event of their lives.
From before the beginning, the reader is told by Louis Sachar that Bridge is a dying game. After reading The Cardturner, I hope to be one of the many young adults who have been inspired by Alton's story to bring the classic game back to life.