by Tim Sandlin
Just recently, I was thinking of Tim Sandlin’s novel Skipped Parts. I can’t remember why. I first read the novel years ago, and even though I’ve had the two subsequent novels in the GroVont Trilogy sitting on my book shelf for years, I’ve never read them. It’s a common problem, as I am not one to read books in a series back-to-back no matter how wonderful they are. Then, I wait so long that I’ve forgotten the first.
Perhaps it’s an omen that I discovered Skipped Parts available for free on my Kindle today. Snatched that puppy right up! So, I just opened it up and peaked inside for old time’s sake. It was like falling down the rabbit hole. I was sucked in with a tidal pull I did not have the power to resist. Seven or eight hours later, I’ve barely moved. And you know what? It may have been even better the second time around!
Y’all know what this is about, right? It’s the coming of age story of two precocious 13-year-olds in GroVont, Wyoming. The novel opens in 1963, shortly before the Kennedy assassination. Sam and his mother are new to town. After a rocky start, he connects with pretty, young Maurey from his class. They’re both readers and full of curiosity, not least of which about the “skipped parts” of novels. In other words, about sex. With the full knowledge and consent of Lydia—a mother unlike any other I’ve seen in all of literature—the two explore their sexuality and deal with the consequences.
While certainly drama-filled, the thing to know about this book is that it’s a comedy. And the deep humor comes from the extraordinary characters that Sandlin has created. I defy you to not fall in love with them. They’re all so profoundly flawed and so very, very human. Sure I remembered the plot of the book, but I’d forgotten about warm Dot, the waitress at the diner. And I couldn’t possibly remember all the facets of Lydia and the complexity of her relationship with Sam.
A plot-driven novel is a letdown the second time around, but this is the perfect example of a character-driven novel getting richer. Not only with time, but—quite frankly—with the increased maturity and sophistication of the reader. Just imagine how good it will be if I read it again in another 20 years! For now, my intentions to move on to the second book, Sorrow Floats, are reaffirmed. And excellent news, Sandlin fans… Fifteen years after the conclusion of this trilogy, the author has returned to these characters with his latest title, Lydia. I have all sorts of reading to look forward to.
* Oh, and if you have an e-reader, rush and snatch this wonderful novel up for free before April 11, 2011.