TERPIN by Tor Seidler


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In reverberant tones with hints of mystery, Seidler opens with a middle-aged man, famous and respected though we don't yet know why, returning to the town of his childhood. The conductor makes vague reference to a tragedy on the line 30-odd years earlier--and then we are back those 30-odd years, with the famous man a schoolboy named Terpin who invents a hard-luck story to cheer up a sad fellow passenger. But instead of taking heart, the sad man jumps off the train; and Terpin, overcome by guilt at his lie and inspired by an ancient Greek coin the stranger has left with him, vows henceforth to be eternally truthful. His new policy loses him friends and scholastic standing, and gets him in trouble at home and in town; finally he flees by train to avoid being sent to a military school. And now, we learn, the middle-aged Terpin is returning as the youngest-ever Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And, true to his longstanding penchant for integrity, he chooses to skip the ceremony renaming the town for him and, as he used to those 30-odd years ago, to go off skiing instead. Seidler has the manner of a commanding story teller, but the old-fashioned moral--that Terpin's honesty got him to the top of the Supreme Court--is not the brilliant revelation that his spotlit scenes have set readers up to expect.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux