Scoop of the e-e-evening: Trouble

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention." -Sir Francis Bacon

When you come across a book that requires chewing and digestion, you must sample it in small doses—nobody rushes a box of Godiva chocolates. To read a book wholly, you must give it your whole attention, but any extra diligence is amply repaid in the pure, premium experience of reading a Really Good Book.

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Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you. But Trouble comes careening down the road one night in the form of a pickup truck that strikes Henry’s older brother, Franklin. In the truck is Chay Chouan, a young Cambodian from Franklin’s prep school. The tragedy sparks racial tensions in the school—and in the town where Henry’s family has lived for generations. Caught between anger and grief, Henry does the only thing he feels he can: he sets off for Mt. Katahdin, which he and Franklin had planned to climb together. One July morning, he leaves for Maine with his best friend and the lovable stray, Black Dog, in tow. But when they encounter Chay Chouan on the road, fleeing demons of his own, Henry learns that turning a blind eye to Trouble only brings Trouble closer.

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From the description, I expected Henry’s climb to take up most of the story, but Schmidt doesn’t hurry anything that deserves our whole attention. He knows how to handle a box of chocolates, and makes every page worth turning.

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Example. How to Paint Character in One Line or Less: He was Franklin Smith, O Franklin Smith, the great lord of us all, Franklin Smith.

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Characters that waver between main and supporting are difficult, but Schmidt creates the perfect best friend in Sanborn—gives him just enough lines, with spot-on delivery each time. In fact, conversations between Henry and Sanborn are like the chocolates you pick out to eat first.

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Scenes that anyone else would have botched—teary-eyed, father-son heart-to-heart?—Schmidt welds into the story’s backbone.

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“Henry,” he said. “Henry, do you think Franklin would have grown into a good man?”

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Henry was so startled, he took a step back.

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“I know,” said his father. “How can anybody ask that? But lately, it’s the only question I seem to be able to ask. Not: Why was Franklin taken from us? Not: What should happen to Chay Chouan? But: Would Franklin have grown into a good man? And I’m not sure I have the courage to hear a true answer.”

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Everything about this story is well done. As in, well done, good and faithful servant. It isn’t a quick read, or an easy read, but it is a book to chew, digest, and murmur, Well done!

4 comments:

Erin said...

Amaaazing book. So glad you enjoyed it. :)

Marie DeVries said...

Noel, your reviews are unlike anything else. Every time I read one of your reviews I feel like running to the library and checking it out /immediately/. You have a way with reviews!

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I just finished reading The Wednesday Wars and found it so good that I would like to read more. I'll check this one out. Thanks!

Noel De Vries said...

Natasha, I liked WW okay, but Trouble was AMAZING!