Touch and Go
Thad Nodine
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Buy *Touch and Go* by Thad Nodine online

Touch and Go
Thad Nodine
Unbridled Books
352 pages
September 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Nodine’s tender-hearted novel is a contemporary lament inspired by the chaos of Hurricane Katrina and those who are marginalized. In his road-trip novel with a twist, the author explores the shaky connections between individuals as Kevin, the central protagonist, a blind recovering crack addict, has the last several years virtually exorcised from the world.

Born sighted but having lost his vision in an accident when he was five, Kevin can only remember a few broad sweeps of visual memory by the time he arrives in Burbank on a sweltering day in the second week of August 2005. Laid off from his newspaper job, feeling "stung and numb," Kevin still has the mindset of the ex-addict, who wants to “run into the pain while also longing to escape.”

Living in a communal housing arrangement with his two sponsors, Patrick and Isa, and their adopted teenage boys, Ray and Devon, Kevin struggles to accommodate a measure of independence. Gruff thirty-eight-year old Patrick is always trading in pyramid schemes and so-called business investments to get rich quick, while recovering addict Isa has become born-again, a calling that parallels her sudden need to travel to Florida to her ailing father.

It will be good to get out of the baking heat of Los Angeles as this group, looking like a bunch of hillbillies, place a massive wooden casket with carved patterns on the top of their car. The trip begins, the group stopping over in Tucson to stay with Isa’s brother as Kevin rapidly becomes the mirror that reflects this intimate group. Much to Patrick's chagrin, Kevin's affection for Isa simmers as he slides back into her arms, hungering for her verve. Clearly Isa and Kevin are connected by more than just  former addiction.

Faced with Patrick’s controlling nature, Kevin must find an approach that allows him to hold his own: “I’d already been cut to the core and survived.” Ray and Devon save the day. Devon is just a kid at sixteen, who despite his attitude seems to do the right things for the wrong reasons, and Ray doesn’t care that his older friend is blind. Even on his best days, Kevin finds himself longing for a whiff of crack; the laughter of the two boys help him conquer overwhelming sadness and despair.

Revolving around kindness of friends, strangers and family, Nodine’s delicately written adventure teases with moments of brilliance as this ragtag troupe - a Mexican kid, a black teen, a sightless ex-addict “looking who knows where” and two born-again sinners posing as parents - make their way across the American Southwest, their trip culminating in the stormy, wind-driven chaos of Biloxi.

Nodine’s talent lies in exploring the rich details of Kevin’s sightless life, from the heat of California’s summer to the sweaty asphalt of Tucson to the cool surface of a community pool. Fear threatening to devour him, Kevin must find a way to open his heart and laugh while also learning to trust his own body and believe in his stride.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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