cover image The Boy in His Winter

The Boy in His Winter

Norman Lock. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-934137-76-5

Inspired by Mark Twain and propelled by the currents of the Mississippi River, this is a tall tale that Lock (Love Among the Particles) has abducted and handed over to Huck Finn. In Lock’s fantastical iteration, Huck and his old friend Jim set off from Hannibal, Mo., in 1835 and raft through the rest of the 19th century. Along the way they meet Tom Sawyer, grown up to become a Confederate soldier, view piles of Union dead, and help a Choctaw chief die with dignity. Jim is inconsolable when he hears John Wilkes Booth has shot Abe Lincoln. By the time they reach Baton Rouge, they’ve entered the 20th century, with horseless travel and the first motion pictures. The time travelers make their way through American history without aging a day, until Jim decides to leave the raft in 1960, sure that it is a good time to reenter the world. (Sadly, he seems to enter the world of To Kill a Mockingbird, fatefully breaking up a chiffarobe for Mayella Ewell.) Huck, still 13, almost makes it to New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina finally blows him from myth into real time. “I can feel my cells divide,” Huck says, reinventing himself as Albert Barthelemy and continuing his journey with a couple of smugglers and a black man who happens to be named James. Albert makes sure things turn out pretty well for himself as a grown man—he’s the author of his own destiny, after all—before he reveals that his beautiful black wife (whose name happens to be Jameson) has written an illustrated children’s book about the adventures of a boy named Albert, calling it A Boy in His Winter. Lock plays profound tricks, with language—his is crystalline and underline-worthy—and with time, the perfect metaphor for which is the mighty Mississippi itself. (May)