Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks

I picked up Jumping the Scratch because the cover was so subtle. Just a button on a sea of red. I thought if the words inside are as minimalist as the cover, this will be a good time.

Jamie Reardon is in an awkward phase of life. Not out of elementary school, his father has left, the life he once knew and loved ( a domestic paradise, really ) is far behind him, and he lives in a trailer with his mom who spends her nights working at the local Cherry factory, and his aunt, Sapphy, whose own employment at said factory caused a freak accident and the loss of her memory.

For such a thin book, Jumping the Scratch deals with huge issues including amnesia, divorce, and sexual abuse.

Jamie is a convincing narrator. He loves his aunt and its his details of the story that make it most believable. He writes of the china gravy boat his aunt eats her favourite sorbet in after she has broken the rest of the dishes, he abashedly admits that he thought "Arthur" was visiting his Jr. High class instead of the "Author" his teacher had mentioned. The title becomes an interesting metaphor for snippets of Jamie's life. First, he loves his aunts old records: Billie, Frank Sinatra et al, secondly it is his euphemism for amnesia, if his aunt can skip the scratch on her memory she will be okay again. Thirdly, it is the block that hinders him from fully acknowleding an abusive moment. Throughout the book, Jamie drops hints at "tasting butterscotch" : a flavour thoroughly repulsive.

All loose ends tie well. Jamie's story is short and to the point. The details are what make it. You feel for Jamie as he shirks the cans of cherries his mom sends for his lunch, the peanut butter he scrapes off his sandwich as a supposed "memory-builder", the copy of the Hobbit he pretends to read to avoid bullying at school, also for his budding relationship with odd duck Audrey Crouch, hypnotist and be-speckled pseudo genius who saves Jamie from burying himself too far in his shell.

Jamie's Aunt Sapphy wants her memory, Jamie wants to lose his; it is an interesting dichotomy and one that works rather well within the confines of Weeks' sparse prose.

Don't spend money on this. You'll finish it in an hour. But sign it out somewhere.


Anonymous said...

good book read it didn't like it

Jane said...

I love this book it is so amazing and sad. I cried. You're right, it was the details.