Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Author: Louis Sachar
I was already laughing when I read the “Note from the Author” by this wonderful writer who created one of my favorite YA’s ever made, Holes. He basically said that everyone looked at him with confusion and incredulity when he told them that he wanted to write a book about bridge. Frankly, in this day and age – as we all know – if games are not electronic and beeping, or lighting up a computer screen, young adults couldn’t be bothered. It’s like that old leisure activity that people used to do back in the Stone Age. Remember? It was called reading a book. The author, Sachar, grew up watching his parents play bridge and he now plays in tournaments across the country. His passion for the game is undeniable, and as you read this story you find yourself utterly immersed in a game of true skill.
Alton Richards is seventeen and he’s entering the summer months after his junior year of high school has come to an end. Alton has been dumped by his girlfriend Katie who is now dating his best friend Cliff. He doesn’t have a part-time job as of yet, and he’s told quite early on that his “summer job” will be to chauffer his uncle, Lester Trapp, back and forth to the old man’s “club” where he plays bridge for hours on end. Although Alton has no desire to do this, his parents tell him he must. You see, Uncle Lester is on his way out because of his diabetes. In fact, Lester has succumbed to blindness, and Alton’s mother, wants to “get in good with the old man” in order to have the biggest payday from Lester’s Last Will and Testament. So she sends Alton off to help Lester and makes sure to tell her son that he must always call him his “favorite uncle,” so that the family can claim a monetary prize large enough to finish the pool they’re building in their backyard.
Alton spends a great deal of time with Uncle Lester, who he calls Trapp. Although he finds himself completely bored with bridge, he also notices that his grandfather is extremely brilliant when it comes to the game. As Alton stays by his uncle’s side and turns the cards for the blind gentleman, he finds himself absorbing all the tricks and rules that come along with bridge and, to his amazement, begins to really like the hours he spends at the table.
A bond is formed and a history is slowly revealed. At one time, Trapp had been in love with a woman named Annabel. Her story was a sad one: Annabel had been the best bridge player in the universe, practically. But she had, unfortunately, been married to a politician who thought a woman should know her place, and not go fluttering off to national bridge championships. Through very strange circumstances, poor Annabel found herself locked away in a asylum, and Trapp lost someone extremely special. Toni is the granddaughter of Annabel. She is also “announced” as being psychologically unbalanced by Alton’s mother. A nice girl, Toni loves Trapp and comes to the bridge club to play with him and learn – as Alton is doing. When the reason why Toni is supposedly “crazy” comes to light, Alton finds out information that he never thought could possibly be true. Not only that, he soon finds himself wondering if he, too, is more than slightly loopy.
The author has done a wonderful job exploring the relationship between Alton and his uncle. It did my heart good, as the memories of my time with my grandfather – sitting together, watching him fix cars, unloading all his wisdom and humor on me so that I could learn from the smartest man on earth – came back to comfort me. Even if you’re not a fan of bridge, that really doesn’t matter with this lovely story. In the end, it’s a simple, engaging plot to show all the wonderful things the younger generation can learn from the one that’s come before. Enjoy!