Book of the Week: Crooked Heart – Lissa Evans

There is something especially beguiling about a certain kind of buddy story. The setup is familiar: an adult, a world-weary outsider often on the con, teams up with a bright, spunky kid in need of rescuing. As examples I think of recent favorite, The Death of Bees. Or Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Or the classic Peter Bogdanovich film Paper Moon.

That movie has perhaps the closest parallel to Crooked Heart which is the story of a ten-year-old boy who is evacuated from London during the Blitz and grieving his beloved godmother. Noel ends up living with Vera Sedge, a dodgy widow on the make. She’s a whirlwind of schemes and crises; he’s a clever kid with a skeptical eye who grounds her. What makes this familiar plot work is Evans’ skill with character. Vera, Noel and the supporting cast are so original that you can’t help but cheer for them and this sweet-hearted story about survival on the home front.

Crooked Heart has received a starred review from Library Journal and the author will be on NPR next weekend. Fans include writers like Nick Hornby, Margot Livesey and Paula Hawkins.

[A] dark comedy with heart, set in London during World War II. After the death of his beloved godmother Mattie, a former suffragette whose keen intellect had begun to buckle under dementia just as the Blitz commenced, 10-year-old Noel Bostock is evacuated to a suburb of London. He is placed with Vera Sedge, a middle-aged widow who has designs on using Noel, who limps, to elicit sympathy for her small-time con….Noel’s precociousness, combined with the distrust of authority instilled in him by Mattie, makes him a difficult child for many adults to like [but Vera and Noel] find a connection. Evans…is especially adept at capturing Noel’s appealing blend of sophisticated bravado and naive fragility—all without lapsing into sentimentality. Most valuable, though, is the tragicomic portrayal of the petty betrayals and profound losses that characterized ordinary people’s everyday wartime experiences.”
Publishers Weekly

“Glorious. I loved every line of this book.”
— Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

“At the crooked heart of this lovely novel is an odd-couple relationship reminiscent of Moses and Addie in the film Paper Moon, between an odd, clever, and lonely boy and a dodgy, desperate woman. Their reliance on each other is credible, touching and funny.”
— Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity and About a Boy

Crooked Heart explores the Blitz during World War II from two utterly inventive perspectives…. A charming, slanted counterpoint to Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

Evans tidily unfolds a satisfying plot…. But it’s the over-arching development of the lost little boy and the harried woman’s affection and admiration for one another that really tugs the reader’s own heart crooked…. There’s great galloping joy in it.”
— The Independent

“Cherishable…. Engaging and comic, Evans’ U.S. debut takes a different slant on Britain during World War II….Aided by spot-on dialogue and low-key charm, Evans does a noticeably good job of spanning a wide range of emotional notes, from genuine sadness to absurd humor.”
— Kirkus Reviews

Crooked Heart (9780062364838) by Lissa Evans. $24.99 hardcover. 7/28/15 on sale.

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