Recent Reads: The Westing Game

The 1980something cover of THE WESTING GAME, featuring chess pieces on a puzzle with missing sections, beneath one of which is Uncle Sam in a casket.

I first read Ellen Raskin’s THE WESTING GAME (affiliate link) when I was about eleven. It was the first, and I believe remains the only, book that I have ever finished reading, stared at a moment, and then gone back to the beginning to read again immediately. I then read it again many, many times in my tween and early teen years, but I don’t remember re-reading it for…well, a very long time. But it came up again recently, possibly in context of Ellen Raskin as a cover designer, and I decided I wanted to re-read it.

Honestly, it’s still great.

I had no particular recollection of the way the story moves from one character at the author’s whim, in what we now call head-hopping, but it helps to clarify why I went back and re-read it immediately, back in the day. It’s not the only reason: you have to be paying attention to fully understand what happens in the book, and I did, and do, read very fast, which is not always conducive to paying close attention. :)

I’m not…I’m not sure how *sympathetic* any of the characters really are. Despite the fact that we get quite a lot of their inner lives and points of view, as an adult, they still all seem sort of shallow (which is not a problem I remember from my childhood readings). OTOH, it’s a 50,000 word book with like 23 POV characters, so, uh, well. There’s not actually a great deal of room for deep, profound character development, and what there is, isn’t *bad*. Like, there’s enough for one character to have totally surprised me on this re-read, and there was obviously enough for tweenage me to be very invested in at least the main character, Turtle.

What I do *not* remember is the end making me cry. I know I’ve gotten really mooshy as I’ve aged, but choking up at the end of The Westing Game was sort of embarrassing. But I’ve got to say, the final chapter/epilogue is really gracefully handled, with a poignant delicacy that resonated with me as an adult in a way I don’t think it really could for a kid. So that was pretty impressive.

I’m going to try to get my son to read it and see what he thinks, although generally my luck with getting him to read The Books Of My Childhood has been, uh, limited, shall we say. :) Which is fair enough, there’s lots of stuff out there, but this one, well, this one I think is really quite good. :)

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