Saturday, December 12, 2015

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

What is REAL?

What is TRUE?

And is there a difference?

Author Martine Leavitt's fascinating new novel, Calvin, a "true" story narrated by a severely schizophrenic character, will have you asking these questions about your own life before you're through. By the end of the book, you may see the world a little differently. A little more clearly.

I've read only one other book by Leavitt. This was Keturah and Lord Death (about a hopelessly romantic girl who strikes a bargain with, well, Death and loses--or does she?). I'd read it on the recommendation of a friend whose taste in reading material I highly respect. Admittedly...Keturah just wasn't my thing. Calvin is a different story altogether. Although short (less than 200 pages), this story is one of those I couldn't put down. 

Calvin was born the day artist Bill Watterson published the last ever Calvin and Hobbes comic. As a tribute, Calvin's grandfather bestowed upon him a stuffed toy tiger he named Hobbes. A toy tiger Calvin used to hear, before his mom washed it to death when Calvin was nine. There are other coincidences too. The girl next door is Suzie (just like in the comic), Calvin's dad wears glasses (just like in the comic), and Calvin's first-grade teacher was Mrs. Wood (just like...well, close enough). But these are only coincidences...Until, several years after the fatal washing, Hobbes comes back. Only this time he's real. And he won't leave Calvin alone.

Wallowing in the psych ward of his local hospital, awaiting diagnosis and, quite likely, a perscription for some heavy-duty anti-psychotic meds, Calvin comes to a realization: If he meets Mr. Watterson and convinces the famed artist to draw one final comic, one where Calvin is 17, healthy, happy and, most importantly, NOT accompanied by Hobbes, he (the REAL Calvin) will be cured. So Calvin breaks out of the hospital and, accompanied by Suzie and, of course, Hobbs, begins a dangerous trek across the frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson and become cured.  

The question I, as a reader, had is this: Did any of this really happen? Or was the journey all in Calvin's mind? But even if the later is so, if the adventure was real only in Calvin's mind, does it make it any less real? It really makes you think...


Calvin reminded me a lot of my favorite book of all time, Going Bovine (by Libba Bray and a past Prinz winner) in that both books are about Epic Quests that may or may not have taken place only in the mind of the narrator. Although Going Bovine is still quite a lot better, in my opinion, Calvin is its own brand of awesome. I highly recommend both books. --AJB 

No comments:

Post a Comment