Saturday, April 02, 2005

FRENCHING VIOLET, by Gary Marchal (PublishAmerica)

I heart Huckabee.

Chas Huckabee, that is--the witty narrator of Gary Marchal's FRENCHING VIOLET. Chas is coming to us from the core of America's hippiedom days: 1969. But he's not a drugged-out college student, a war protestor or a flower child. He's just a child--13, to be exact.

It's the beginning of summer vacation and he gets grounded. Total bummer. As a result, he decides to read Huckleberry Finn (at a loss of anything else to do) and suddenly finds himself motivated to write about his own adventure. But this novel (Huckabee's tale) reads more like CATCHER IN THE RYE than the famed novel by Mark Twain; the story is nothing more than a boy trying to exist in a confusing time at a confusing age. And, as a result, the re-introduction of girls as something more than counterparts gets heavy airtime.

Catch my drift:

"I’ve got a Christmas miracle for you: Skinny got a date.

Maybe that Tom Jones getup did the trick, but he called up a girl who'd danced with him the weekend before. Her name’s Mona Lisa, and I know because Skinny’s been saying her name in his bed ever since. I’d hear moans to go along with Mona and sighs to go along with Lisa, and I’d hear his breathing pick up so high you’d think he was dreaming of toting her up the tallest hill in our neighborhood."

It is, overall, a simple story--mostly of puberty and friendly rivalry over the same girl (Violet, of course.)

Don't be put off by the nod towards young adults; this book entertains as easily as Salinger's novel and is one you will turn to for more than a single reading.

Another note: the comparison to CATCHER is a loose one. A lot of people are funny about their addiction to Salinger's work (especially those sick folks who underline passages.) Just pick up FRENCHING VIOLET and enjoy. Relive your youth and see (and feel!) what is like to be a kid again.