Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant

In brief: Skid and his family live in swampland outside New Orleans, but life is never boring. There’s girls, gunshots and a little bit of magic…

The good: There’s always something happening in the Beaumont household – life is never dull.

The not-so-good: Quite sad at times.

Why I chose it: Sent to me by Bloomsbury Sydney – thank you!

Year: 2013

Pages: 279

Publisher: Alma Books

Setting: Just outside of New Orleans

My rating: 7 out of 10

Sketcher is a really interesting book in that I have conflicting thoughts about it. It’s not structured in the usual way – there’s no big building of drama into a crescendo, but lots of events both big and small spread throughout the book. There’s also no definite answers spelled out for the reader and it’s rather sad at times. I suppose that it’s more representative of real life – sometimes a lot of big things happen, sometimes there’s not much happening.

The book is set on the outskirts of New Orleans in the early 1980s. Skid Beaumont’s father thought that he was sitting on a winning lottery ticket as the city began to expand. But then everything slowed and construction ended. The Beaumonts live in a shack on the edge of the bayou, doing without things Skid’s classmates take for granted – electricity and television. However, the Beaumont boys make their own fun, holding conferences in the tamarind tree, buying lollies at the local store (where Skid’s crush lives) and playing on the CB radio. Skid’s convinced that his brother Frico has the ability to sketch things and make them better – or worse. He’s continually trying to get Frico to draw things to improve their lives, but Frico mainly refuses. While this is happening, a crush on his teacher gets Skid sent to a psychologist and then his father is found in a delicate situation with another woman. This is where things start to get wilder, as local magic tries to take hold. Then there’s a sinkhole, a crocodile, fracking and everything gets a bit crazy…

One of the things I liked about Sketcher is the way it’s written. It reads like Skid is sitting next to you, talking as though you’re friends. It’s casual but endearing as you feel you’re right in there with the Beaumont boys. I thought it was very clever how Skid’s language changed subtly as he got older (less slang and better insight into the overall picture). Sometimes I did have to read back over a paragraph or two due to the slang, but as you fall into the rhythm of the novel it gets a lot easier.

Another thing to marvel at is the things the Beaumont boys go through in the space of this book – deaths, possible murders and explosions are just a few of the things going on. While I originally thought this would be about Frico’s alleged sketching powers, they were somewhat put to the side as things heated up and real life events took over. Was this to show Skid that some things were beyond his family’s control? Or just to demonstrate the little power individuals have?

Although it took me a little while to settle into, I did like Sketcher and I find myself wondering what Skid would be like as an adult.

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