There may be none so blind as those who will not see, as the old adage goes. But in Santa Cruz, author Thad Nodine's bracing debut novel, "Touch And Go" (Unbridled Books), there is also no one more perceptive than the blind narrator/protagonist, Kevin Layne. In a patchwork, largely dysfunctional, post-modern family related by need, not blood, on an ill-conceived cross-country road trip, blind Kevin is the one with the surest grasp on (and empathy for) the desires and compulsions that motivate the others' actions—motivations they often keep hidden, even from themselves.
It takes a certain amount of audacity—not to mention skill—for a sighted author to write an entire novel from a blind character's, er, viewpoint. For one thing, there are no elaborate visual descriptions to fall back on—interiors, city streets, the changing landscape on the road, not even the characters' faces. None of which daunts Nodine, who makes a vivid sensory feast out of everyday activities as Kevin relates his experience of the physical world. ("Footsteps spat across concrete at odd angles. A stroller nearly clipped me ... I blustered across alcoves as the heels of my Western boots echoed the recesses.") From Kevin's perspective, Nodine's descriptions of the other characters are so alive—the emotional pitch of voices, how a shoulder or elbow feels to the touch, a fleeting scent of perfume, or sweat, or chlorine, fidgety hands, intimate confessions—the reader may not even realize he doesn't know what they actually look like.