Norman Lock skillfully reworks Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn, allowing Huck a more intimate narration of his and Jim’s journey down the Mississippi River, which, as Huck tells it, actually spanned 1835 to 2005. The timeless duo drift languid decades at a clip on the sempiternal river, witnessing history’s milestones from afar as they pass — the Civil War, Lincoln’s assassination, Indian removals, electric lights, the Great War, jazz music. They re-engage the world on the occasions when they pull ashore. And sometimes the world engages them, as when, in 1903, a Western Union messenger hails them from shore yelling “If you’re Huck Finn, as I suppose, and you want to see Tom Sawyer before he departs this world for the next, then you’d better hurry.” To which the young-old Huck follows the boy ashore to his elderly friend’s apartment for a final goodbye.
Huck is conscious of the strangeness of his atemporal voyage, and of Twain’s version of his story. He narrates his adventure in 2077 as an old man, having begun aging again only after his river journey ends in 2005. His narration is often interrupted by asides to the reader: “You want to know where this is leading,” or, “You’re about to object that it didn’t happen this way. . . Does anyone really know how it happened? Do you? Did Mark Twain? Did it really happen at all?” It must have, because Jim, now long gone, and the river infuse the remainder of Huck’s existence — as a boat salesman, as a husband, as an Internet surfer, as an old man.
Hazy, beautiful, soul-filling. I loved this book.