Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

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A young man overcomes a crippling loss and finds the courage to live after meeting an enigmatic girl.

“Was this story written about me?”

I shrugged.

“Yes or no?”

I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty.

“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.

I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote on my palm.

I can’t, I wrote. Then, in tiny letters below it: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

Wallach’s debut We All Looked Up was so stunning that I jumped at the chance to read this. Since WALU was about an impending disaster, I wondered what kind of tone Thanks for the Trouble would have. This fanciful tale featuring two strangers meeting and discovering a camaraderie who go on to create their own adventures, is both hopeful and serious.

Parker seems like a normal kid except that he refuses to speak. All the therapy he’s been through can’t unlock what’s disturbing him the most since the death of his father a few years before. He's simply not ready. He depends on his journal to communicate with people and also to write the many stories that bound through his imagination. Being the odd kid, he resorts to stealing as a hobby. One of his favourite things to do is to hang out at hotel lobbies, which is where he notices Zelda who seems to be lost in her own world. When she leaves the hotel, he sees that she’s left her bag behind and he decides to steal it. Only he can’t bring himself to do it. In the meantime she returns and confronts him about his pitiful attempt at theft. Instead of being upset about it though, she’s intrigued. She announces that they should spend time together. That is until she receives a life-changing phone call that she’s been expecting and at which point they'll part ways.

I was so tuned into this story. Zelda is a larger than life character who’s own personal story is quite unfathomable. Parker doesn’t believe her at all but gets wrapped up in her persona none the less. She’s determined that Parker needs to come out of his shell and also look to his future. She strikes up a deal with him that to him seems one-sided. Parker can’t help but worry about her welfare despite her assurances that she doesn’t require any help. He is such a sweetheart and a good-natured guy. Meeting Zelda has lifted his spirits and given him the push he needs at this crucial time in his life. The best is when it dawns on him that even though he’s retreated into himself, he isn’t alone and that he can still be a part of a social circle that embraces him wholeheartedly. 

Once again, Wallach’s writing is solid and alluring, weaving together Parker's contemporary world with Zelda's fairytale of a life. What I admire about his books so far is that he writes his characters as smart and insightful. He's great at capturing significant moments that are set within a limited timeframe. And the location being in San Francisco, one of my favourite places ever, made me enjoy the story that much more. 

Thanks for the Trouble is charming, witty and heart-warming and I have nothing but fondness for this little treasure!

~ Bel

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