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The Latest: 'Crow' flies high; Moonsville nods to past

April 18, 2013
  • "Black Crow, White Lie" by Costa Mesa resident Candi Sary.
"Black Crow, White Lie" by Costa Mesa resident…

Black Crow White Lie

Candi Sary

Casperian Books; 159 pages

In the film noir classic "The Night of the Hunter," Robert Mitchum plays a preacher who tattoos the word "love" on one hand and "hate" on the other — a symbol, he explains, of the struggle between good and evil. The protagonist of "Black Crow White Lie," Candi Sary's new novel, faces this conflict in a deeper sense. Carson Calley, a preteen who moves with his alcoholic mother in and out of Hollywood motels, often responds to frustration with clenched fists; when others aren't watching, he pounds walls, vandalizes bikes, even smashes store windows. Hate, adolescent angst — it has the same effect.

But Carson's hands harbor a loving power as well: When he holds them over a wound and concentrates, he sees and feels a rush of energy through his body, and the ailment disappears. "Black Crow White Lie," which came out last year and recently won the Reader Views Literary Award for the West-Pacific region, is about which side of Carson's energy will triumph — whether he'll give into his nastier impulses (especially after a plot twist that causes him, and us, to doubt the power of his gifts) or whether, like the proverbial physician, he'll heal himself.

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It's no small feat for a novelist to capture a child's voice convincingly. Sary, a Costa Mesa resident and UC Irvine graduate, pulls it off throughout "Black Crow White Lie." Carson, who narrates the story, comes off as a bright, thoughtful kid who is still a kid nevertheless (he uses "mom" instead of "mother"), describing the seamy Hollywood streets in detail while still sounding plainspoken and wide-eyed. With his mother often in the hospital or off with her mysterious boyfriend, Carson clings to a pair of surrogate father figures: Faris, a tattoo shop owner who concedes to inking a crow on his pubescent shoulder, and Casper, who works at a head shop and sees business potential in Carson's healing fingers.

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