There are mixed feelings about this book; after finishing the first chapter I see much I like yet there’s an ambivalence and I question the rave reviews I seem to recall when it came out.
First of all, I must mention the "exploratory" side of Mitchell’s writing. Since punctuation has already been played with by Faulkner, McCarthy, and others, Mitchell instead has focused on passing off the dialect of his narrator, a thirteen year-old boy, as realistic via contractions:
I wouldn’t’ve argued
But the dark’d shuffled itself and the sour aunt’d gone.
That’s fine; I do like realistic language but just as with accents, the reader imagines them without having to have them spelt (sic) out. Some of these, such as "dark’d" (meaning dark had) are a halt in the flow of reading in opposition to their intention of smoothing out by melding together a group of common words. I do it all the time in emails and blog postings, but to the extent of a novel it will either be overcome or become downright annoying.
On the good side, there is a hint of magical realism as Jason, skating on the pond after his friends have departed, sees the figure of another skater who may be a ghost. He is injured in a fall and goes to a house where a strange old woman, the "sour aunt" lives (maybe) with her brother. There is an almost fairytale encounter as she fixes his ankle and gives him something to drink that puts him to sleep. This is a very interesting intrusion of the make-believe in the midst of a very down-to-earth narrative point of view.
Not gripping, but certainly intriguing.