Recommend a… (book with a character who plays a sport)

Recommend A… is a weekly meme run by Chick Loves Lit. Click here to check out future prompts and take part!

I looked and looked, and I have yet to see a book I have read in which a character plays sports! Predictable. I suppose Harry Potter is a possibility (“And here is how one plays Quidditch…“), but I prefer — most of the time — suggesting books that receive less attention. Hence, this week’s recommendation might be considered somewhat of a cheat. The main character refers to his “sport” of preference as a “mental sport,” but I hope no one minds, as it is an enjoyable book.

The Cardturner: A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a Joker by Louis Sachar
Published May 11th, 2010 | Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Young Adult Fiction

Summary from GoodReads:

From Louis Sachar, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Newbery Medal for HOLES, comes the young adult novel THE CARDTURNER, an exploration of the human condition.

How are we supposed to be partners? He can’t see the cards and I don’t know the rules!

The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to hook up with his best friend. He has no money and no job. His parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner—whatever that means. Alton’s uncle is old, blind, very sick, and very rich.

But Alton’s parents aren’t the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp’s good graces. They’re in competition with his longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family, who seem to have a mysterious influence over him.

Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda. As the summer goes on, he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

Through Alton’s wry observations, Louis Sachar explores the disparity between what you know and what you think you know. With his incomparable flair and inventiveness, he examines the elusive differences between perception and reality—and inspires readers to think and think again.

Yeah, yeah, no real sports! I’m sorry. Yes, I present a book entirely void of any physical exertion, unless I count Uncle Trapp — the old man tires simply by walking, but he is an amazing bridge player. I should hope the card game does not throw anyone off, because the story itself — the true heart of it — has less to do with bridge and much more to do with character history and relations.

I found Alton’s narrative voice difficult to dislike, as Sachar makes an agreeable character out of him. The atmosphere is notably light and fun, yet balanced by sincerity. The romantic aspect flickers faintly most of the time, just at the edge somewhere in peripheral view, but the emotions are there and felt. The main focus centers on Alton’s developing relationship with his uncle, Trapp, as well as Trapp’s history. As the reader, I loved learning Trapp’s backstory: a tale that involves bridge, of course, but elaborates on a different and tragic love that I think can fill a novel of its own. Reading The Cardturner turned out to be a relaxing experience that holds more than one gripping attribute. I recommend Sachar’s book for fans and players of bridge, and even to those who are not. (Only the former party will show greater appreciation, and for obvious reasons.)

  • You can read my review here.

Since my book list falls short in sporty characters, I’d love to hear recommendations — if you’ve got any.

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