Review of “The Cardturner” by Louis Sachar

This young adult novel by the author of Holes combines a charming coming of age story with an introduction to the game of bridge.

My husband has been trying to teach me to play bridge for over ten years. We have over one hundred books on bridge, including my personal (and most valued) favorites, Bridge for Dummies, and Idiot’s Guide to Bridge. It’s a really hard game.

I loved this book, but I have no idea how I would have reacted to it if had I no familiarity at all with the game of bridge.

The story is narrated by seventeen-year-old Alton Richards, who is hired by his seventy-six-year-old rich uncle, Lester Trapp, to be a “cardturner.” Lester has gone blind from diabetes but still wants to play bridge. Alton drives Lester, or “Trapp” as he is called, to his bridge club four times a week. From watching the game while turning his uncle’s cards, Alton gradually takes an interest in bridge himself.

Alton begins to practice at home with his eleven-year-old sister Leslie, who gets enthused herself about the game. Alton also starts playing bridge with Trapp’s former cardturner, seventeen-year-old Toni. Although Alton likes Toni, she is more aggressively pursued by Alton’s best friend Cliff, the same “best friend” who took away the girl Alton previously liked, Katie. But Alton hangs on to his connection to Toni, through bridge and through Trapp.

It turns out that Trapp’s favorite bridge partner used to be Toni’s grandmother, Annabel. Alton knows that Trapp and Annabel made a great bridge team, but they never got to compete in the national championships. Toni and Alton are determined to change that, even if it means believing in miracles.

Evaluation: This is just the sweetest story, with or without the bridge. On the bridge, I think Sachar does a great job of setting up the book so that the reader can decide how much bridge to read about: the author (as Alton) inserts a picture of Moby Dick before optional passages that go into detail about the hands, and indicates that these sections aren’t necessary for the plot if the reader wants to skip them. (The reason he puts the image of Moby Dick is meant to be a humorous reference to how Alton regarded all the specifics about whales in Melville’s book.) The author even attaches an appendix under the name of a fictional bridge expert, Syd Fox, to explain some bridge terms used and card tricks made in the novel.

Sachar’s love of bridge comes through in spades (so to speak), and with a main character/narrator who has a heart like a diamond, there will be no need to club you over the head to get you to like this book. I liked it a lot, and I think you’ll follow suit.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, 2010

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19 Responses to Review of “The Cardturner” by Louis Sachar

  1. softdrink says:

    The Moby Dick whale image is hilarious…I can totally relate!

  2. Care says:

    OH, this DOES sound like a sweet read! I love me some books featuring the septua/octo/nano-genarians. My parents used to love to play bridge but I have never even attempted to learn.

  3. Margot says:

    This story sounds both sweet and fun. I used to play bridge a lot several decades ago. For me the easy-ness of the game depends on who you are playing with. It seemed like a difficult game until I joined a bridge club of all women who thought the game was fun. I was surprised by how interesting and fun it was. Then I became good at it although not so good when I played with other people. From that I learned that I’m good at games when they are fun but not when they are super competitive.

  4. Alyce says:

    I completely got the Moby Dick reference. If I was ever going to reread that book I’m sure there would be some skimming/skipping involved when it came to the whaling sections. This book sounds cute though (and I know nothing about bridge).

  5. Sandy says:

    I had a boyfriend once who taught me to play bridge, but I remember NOTHING. Still, even though I’ve not read Holes or its sequel, I know this guy writes a good YA novel. I tried to convince my kids to let me read Holes to them, but they rejected me. 😦

  6. BermudaOnion says:

    I tried to learn how to play bridge years ago, but found it too difficult to play and talk, so I knew it wasn’t for me. I love the Moby Dick image too!

  7. JoAnn says:

    None of us plays bridge, but I’m pretty sure one of my daughters would love this. Will look for a copy – thanks!

  8. zibilee says:

    I almost picked this book up a few weeks ago, but decided against it because I no absolutely nothing about bridge. I can see now that I probably made a mistake and am going to have to rectify that soon. I bet it’s also a book that my kids would love as well. I am glad to hear that you had such a great reaction to it.

  9. Megan says:

    The Moby Dick device is very clever! I think I’ll have to be on the lookout for a copy.

    Speaking of clever, all the card suit wordplay in that last paragraph made me chuckle. Love it! 😀

  10. Jenners says:

    Sounds like the author had a good sense of humor. And I love your puns in the review … despite how “painful” they were. : )

    I’ve never played bridge and as someone who takes FOREVER to catch on to games, I doubt I will ever learn or master it.

  11. Staci says:

    This is one that I’m pretty sure my son would love.

  12. dying from your puns… 🙂

    my dad’s mom was a big bridge player, but i never really understood the ‘draw’. ahem. i was too busy watching my mom’s rowdy, italian family play penny poker. i grew up playing (and loving) poker and used to play quite a bit in atlantic city. these days, everyone is a card shark (now that poker is on tv) and it’s hard to get a seat, let alone a table that deals 7 card stud. it’s all about texas hold ’em now. but i’m rambling. i love cards and think this YA has potential for me! also, the cover is great!

  13. Jenny says:

    Ha, I like the Moby Dick references. Louis Sachar was an author I loved as a kid but haven’t been able to return to in adulthood, with a few exceptions — Holes is one of the best-put-together books I’ve ever read ever. This sounds charming! I think I probably know just enough about bridge to be able to understand it (she said optimistically).

  14. I love card games, but I could never figure out Bridge for some reason. That bothered me, I will admit. So I developed a tiny bit of hostility to the game, which might effect my feelings for the book… 😉

  15. celawerd says:

    This sounds like a very interesting read.

  16. Haha in spades. Cute. This looks interesting!

  17. Biblibio says:

    Oh, Louis Sachar… has it been so many years since I last saw you? I can’t believe The Cardturner has been out for so long and I didn’t buy it. That needs to be rectified. Immediately.

  18. Aarti says:

    Um, best ending paragraph you’ve ever written for a review!

  19. stacybuckeye says:

    I LOVE card games. 5 deck canasta is a favorite. I’ve never tried bridge because I’m not sure I have enough mental energy to put forth to be good at it. And if I’m not at least a decent player, forget it. I’m to competitive.
    As for the book, it looks like fun.

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