Like quirky indie films, I’m drawn to quirky indie books. This fall’s Touch and Go by Thad Nodine (the new fiction title from Unbridled Books) is lining up to fit the bill; the first sentence of the book blurb reminds me of a “guy walks into a bar” joke, but you’ll see it’s much more than that:
A blind, recovering addict gets into an old station wagon with his sponsors and their foster family for a drive from Burbank to Florida to deliver a handmade casket to a dying grandfather. As they battle their way across the southern half of the nation, this rag-tag American family falls prey to love and lies, greed and violence, crime and Katrina.
I caution you not to think this is slapstick in its printed form. Remember the film Little Miss Sunshine, and all we learned from the Hoover family as they drove to Olive’s beauty pageant? And how Santa was helped by Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist, in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Sometimes misfits are the perfect fit!
The book blurb asks:
How can we ever know anyone when the information we receive from them is so fragmentary and misleading? Kevin, the novel’s blind narrator, is one of the most perceptive figures in recent fiction. And his desire to do no harm is contagious. Through Kevin’s rich senses – and his boundless compassion and empathy – Nodine gives us a multicultural portrait of what just might be the true America. And he does so with deep affection for everyone along the way.
I’m only about 30 pages into the novel, but that’s enough for me to know that I wanted to share a ‘teaser’ from it today.
This tender scene is from page 10. Kevin has just been laid off from his newspaper reporting job. Dejected, he takes the public bus toward home, but trips as he’s walking up the sidewalk, hurting his ankle and dropping his cane (“Charlie”) in the process. Ray, the foster child who lives with him, spots Kevin as he hops on one foot, rubbing his sore ankle:
“You look funny!” he said, giggling. He didn’t care that I was blind. He wasn’t ashamed of my scar. He didn’t know I was a failure. In that instant, I saw myself from a kid’s perspective: hopping. I dropped my foot and tugged him against me, my arm around his slim torso. He wanted none of that; he pulled away quickly. In the house, away from people, he loved to be coddled, but not out on the street, where someone might see him. He was small, but he was going into seventh grade after all.
I heard him folding Charlie. Then he brought my palm to his near shoulder and set off guiding me home. I squeezed gently, enjoying the familiar curve of his thin collarbone. That’s one way I know people, by the rhythm of their shoulder or elbow as they settle into a gait. I tried to match his short, quick steps. Ray doesn’t lead so much as he likes the attention of being followed. After a few strides, he started hopping on one foot, laughing, and I started hopping as well. Before I could help it, I was laughing too.
Has this excerpt got your attention? Kevin’s observations are perceptive, and he quickly pulls out of his own funk when he “sees himself” from Ray’s perspective. An ironic choice of words, since Kevin is blind.
What are you reading this week? Care to share a few “teaser” sentences?