December 11, 2012

30 Books in 30 Days: "Black Crow White Lie," by Candi Sary

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Black Crow White Lie, by Candi Sary

Black Crow White Lie
By Candi Sary
Casperian Books

Other small presses might get more publicity and do flashier things, but I have to say that I've been quietly impressed the last several years with the unassuming Casperian Books, and especially for their habit of picking up great little stories that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle because of their overly general subject matter. Take for example Candi Sary's highly readable Black Crow White Lie, which in synopsis form is a pretty generic dysfunctional-family coming-of-age tale -- namely, preteen boy deals with his alcoholic New Age single mother, who has convinced him that he has special supernatural healing powers, as they shuffle from one motel to the next among the seedier sections of southern California, while she disappears for days at a time to be with her boyfriend and drinking partner. But it's in the details where this book really shines, because Sary has a fine-tuned understanding of what makes a story like this work; among the little moments, that is, like the time Carson spends with a sympathetic tattoo artist in front of his Hollywood shop, or his dealings with the hard but cute girl at school he has a crush on, or his growing sense of empowerment over what seems to be a successful string of actual psychic healings, the truth of which we don't learn until the very end of the book. Eventually, though, this novel does build to a bigger climax, as the now thirteen-year-old Carson makes plans to cross the country by himself so to visit his dead father in a Washington DC military cemetery; and this too is handled in a very satisfying way, as Sary takes all these little character-building moments from before and applies them to what is suddenly a much grander plot, the final kicker that elevates this story above the multitude of only mediocre coming-of-age tales that now exist out there. A former semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, it's easy to see why such mainstream publications as Publishers Weekly has called this "praiseworthy [and] poignant," and I have to admit that this was one of the most emotionally satisfying reads I've had all autumn. It comes strongly recommended to one and all.

Out of 10: 9.2

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:29 AM, December 11, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |