The Boy in His Winter

"Listen. Every author wants to write at least one time-travel novel," says an aging Huck Finn, the narrator of Norman Lock's remarkable A Boy in His Winter. It is 2077, and Huck is now a retired yacht salesman named Albert Barthelmy. He is recounting his boyhood on the Mississippi, where he floated through history, perpetually 13, until Hurricane Katrina washed him ashore, thrusting him back into time.

In the story as Albert tells it, the raft itself is the time machine for two mythic literary characters; Huck and Jim step off the raft for brief periods but always return. The pair floats past Lincoln's assassination, the Industrial Revolution, the Jim Crow South, the birth of jazz. Huck loves Jim and resents him in equal measure, and never more so than when Henry, a black jazz musician, joins them and becomes Jim's close confidant. The tragic consequences of Huck's resentment haunt him for the rest of his life.

The span of his life may be epic but Albert is more interested in his story's odd synchronicities and its truth than in its facts. His goal is lofty: "I'll try to study cruelty (I regret my own) and render it in more familiar terms."

Lock (Love Among the Particles) writes some of the most deceptively beautiful sentences in contemporary fiction. Beneath their clarity are layers of cultural and literary references, profound questions about loyalty, race, social progress and the nature of truth. They merge with an iconic American character, tall tales intact, to create something entirely new--an American fable of ideas. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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