Rebecca's Reviews > Touch and Go

Touch and Go by Thad Nodine
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Mar 03, 2015

it was ok
bookshelves: bookclub, disabled-hero, het-romance
Read in June, 2012

This book really could have been a must-read - the type of book you'd walk away from thinking, "Wow." Unfortunately, as a first novel it feels underdeveloped and a little rough around the edges; despite its strong start, it stumbles in the end and struggles with pacing and lack of real resolution toward the end.

>Touch and Go< is, at its heart, a road-trip book about a rag-tag family going cross country to deliver a coffin to the dying father of one of the group, in a very >As I Lay Dying< sense. The group is made up of the blind narrator Kevin, husband and wife Robert and Isa, and their two foster children, Devon and Ray. The three adults are all recovering addicts who met in rehab; Isa is Kevin's official caretaker and manages the monthly settlement money he gets from his parents.

Kevin is an incredibly interesting character - partially because he narrates the story and is completely, 100% blind (he sees "nothing" as he puts it) - so the narration is focused on how he perceives the world - through sound, touch, smell. It makes for an interesting read and forces you to think non-visually. He's also interesting because of his relationship with Isa - he was apparently in love with her (unrequited) and finally decides (near the beginning) that he's "done" with her and is going to move on (since she's married). He obviously battles with truly accepting his blindness, his fears, etc.; at one point, Devon, the older of the two foster kids, criticizes him for not having "props" and not standing up for himself against Robert (in particular) who can be kind of a bully. Kevin is portrayed as a kind of meek, immature figure, who, through the course of the story, needs to grow up and learn to be his own man - in a very literal sense of the word.

What really shines about the book (other than the narrative style), in my opinion, is the relationship between Kevin and the two kids. Although Robert is technically their foster father (and-- SPOILER - turns out to be Devon's bilogical father) - it is Kevin who is the true father figure for the children. The scenes in which he interacts with Ray in particular (the younger of the two foster kids) are particularly sweet - playing games with him, putting him to bed; in some ways, it is in these scenes that Kevin is most real.

Unfortunately, while the novel starts of well enough, things start to fall apart approximately midway, and the part with Katrina feels almost forced, the pacing off, and it's not quite clear that Kevin really has his true epiphany, making the ending feel abrupt and unsatisfactory.

I also felt as if we never truly understood why/how Kevin got so deep into drugs in the same way we did the other characters. Was it just his inability to function independently? If so, that seems... a little abelist, perhaps? What happens with Isa also seems a little contrived, as if the author couldn't figure out how to resolve the ongoing conflict between her and Kevin in any other way - it almost felt like the way she was handled dis-abled Kevin's chance at transformation. He doesn't have to deal with her because the story takes care of that for him.

I wanted to see much more of Nick Hornby's >About A Boy< in the relationship between Kevin and the children - how they are the ones who teach him to grow up and take responsibility for himself and others. I feel like that is the true heart of the story and one that gets lost along the way.

Truly disappointing. I would really only recommend this book if you're writer curious in exploring how to craft a scene without using the visual element.
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