The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
Shadowfall Publications (2011)
After reading some of the darkest and grimmest historical fiction from Lisa Mannetti's talented and twisted mind, I had the chance to read her latest novel which demonstrates her penchant for the whimsical and satirical. She already showed her humorous side with 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover, illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, but this novel was to show a deeper exposure of her funny bone. At least, that's what I'd hoped given the source material was penned by Mark Twain.
It's with a sigh of relief that this novel is most assuredly not a literary mash-up a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. With all due respect to authors who cram their prose in-between the passages of literary classics, I much prefer when an author explores brand new material with those established characters. Lisa doesn't merely throw some witches and werewolves into some of Twain's old lore. She crafts her own story by absconding with two literary icons and dropping them quite unceremoniously in her world. And the way she does it is both mischievous and charming.
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn find themselves reincarnated as a pair of white fluffy kittens, and given the monikers--for a little while anyway--of Cream Puff and Coconut. Aside from that niggling detail, the two boys acclimate themselves to their feline lifestyles rather well. They're adept at finding prime spots to nap, are waited on indoors, and have free roam outdoors. Not terrible for a couple kids at heart. This setup alone would have been amusing enough given Lisa's talent; just let the two have quaint adventures in the backyard chasing mice and generally being cats; but Lisa takes Huck and Tom and really makes their new lives interesting.
They're adopted by a witch who calls herself Lady B and given their true names back of Tom and Huck, as she recognizes their spirits and enlists them as her familiars. As they start their new lives with her in the Chancery House, they not only become better acquainted with being cats, but also acquainted with witchcraft, even learning a few tricks of their own. If antics involving magic and Lady B's werewolf friends, and an antagonistic woman named Lily, there's a love story brewing for Lady B as she searches for true love. Tom and Huck get the idea to help her out, in their own impish ways.
Personally, I was always more of a fan of Mark Twain's sardonic wit in his letters and essays, though it's been years since I last read any of those--I really should remedy that. I read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn way back in junior high as required reading, and like most required reading, I repelled from it. I think Lisa has warmed me up to it, thanks to reminding me just how vibrant and varied the language was. And Lisa expertly employs that Twain style of writing, telling this story through Tom Sawyer's eyes. The mannerisms and speech feel so much like what I remember from Twain's writing, it was remarkable.
There were lulls for me in a few spots, but I was impressed overall, and one particular scene involving a seance was outright hilarious. The book is worth reading for that alone, in my opinion. I read the grown-up edition of the book, which is one of two editions, as a version of younger readers is available for purchase, too. I think that must exist solely to exclude some of the racier moments in the story, but I'll bet the heart and hilarity are intact.
If you're a fan of Twain, it's a must read. If you're in the mood for some humor and fantastical escapades, this book is a pretty safe bet, as well. Lisa's done it again.