Alton has always known that his parents look to his Great Uncle Lester as their salvation. Uncle Lester is very wealthy, and they hope that when he dies he will leave them lots of money. So when Alton gets a call asking him to sit with blind Uncle Lester and help him play bridge, they think this is the perfect way to get into Lester’s good graces.
Alton doesn’t know much about Lester, just stories he’s heard through the years about how grumpy and selfish the old man is, and how he had a tragic past. But the longer he works for Lester and learns more about his dry wit, his genius ability to play bridge, and the true story about his past, the more Alton begins to figure out a path for his own life.
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar offers young adults more of what they may have loved in Holes with lessons on bridge built in. While the bridge technicalities may sound boring (and it definitely can be) Sachar offers his readers respite by indicating which passages are full of bridge jargon. Readers can skip those sections without losing any of the beauty of the story.
And this is one beautiful story. Alton is drifting aimlessly at the beginning of the book. He’s lost his girlfriend to his best friend and has no idea what he wants to do with his life after high school. The lessons Alton learns from his uncle, and as he learns to play bridge himself, also make for good conversation in mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up: how do you define success in yourself and others, how can you stand up for yourself and the things you want even if means going against someone you care about, and what makes a good partner, in cards and in life.
The chapters are short, which makes it easy to keep turning pages. Both Alton and Uncle Lester have compelling voices and the ability to make simple statements that carry a lot of meaning. The bridge descriptions may get tedious, or they may inspire you to learn more about this game of strategy. Either way, there’s a lot to love in this gem of a book. I highly recommend it.