Lisa Mannetti evokes the spirit of the Great American Novelist Mr. Mark Twain and his most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, in The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The reimagined classic has become a popular subgenre in horror the past few years, beginning with the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the other Jane Austin mashups that followed. Even Mark Twain’s mischievous young boys weren’t safe from parody in Don Borchert’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead and W. Bill Czolgosz’ Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim. While these novelty books are representative of their titles – the original classic simply horror-fied by tacking on “zombie” – Mannetti’s The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is truly a work all her own. She weaves a beautiful, heartwarming, and humorous fantasy with the delectable Tom and Huck, but resurrects them with the love and care only a true fan and scholar of Twain could.
Mannetti reincarnates Tom and Huck as twin cat familiars to a witch, Lady Bastet a.k.a. Lady B, in The New Adventures… Tom narrates this tale recounting their clever but often troublesome schemes to find Lady B true love; how they open a Bed & Breakfast called The Chancery House with her werewolf friends Ted and Earle; and their tribulations with the schemin Lily Blum, also a witch. Lady B conjures a spell to find her true love, so when the local veterinarian Peter reciprocates her interest, she worries that it’s not a love connection they share, but witchcraft that brought him closer to her. Tom and Huck try to help Lady out by putting her profile out on a dating website, in case Peter isn’t the one, but when that backfires they have a whole mess of trouble to clean up. Tom and Huck were in the habit of mischief-making as Twain’s human boys and now, with the help of their newfound magical powers, they are even more inclined to raise hell, all to help their beloved Lady B find happiness ‘course.
Mannetti uses her literary witchery to breathe life into Tom and Huck. One way is by honoring the vernacular of Twain’s original characters. You’ll be talkin’ like a regular country bumpkin after hangin’ around with these boys, usin’ “most” instead of “almost” and “warn’t” instead of “wasn’t.” Tom has a biting whit often using quirky sayings to teach a lesson or make a point, like his observation of Lily’s emotional frigidity; “…Lily had no more clue what love was than a toad had notions about pocket watches.” He is also the type to use humor to lighten up a dark situation while his “brother under the skin” has a gentle but worrisome disposition.
Language gives them personality, but Mannetti’s subtle inclusion of feline mannerisms and preoccupations has the twin cats leaping from the pages shedding soft white hairs in their wake. They glide through The Chancery House, avoiding the commotion of visitors – especially ornery children – to find prime nappin spots, swattin and chewin any loose string or strap that land in their path. Both are paranoid and suspicious as young boys, and cats for that matter, can be, always findin some nefarious meaning in the habits of adults. They also have the same aversions to loud noises, dogs, and vacuum cleaners common to a cat which is explored further throughout the novel. For instance, Tom enlightens the reader to the reason cats loathe vacuum cleaners explaining, it is “a cloven-foot creature straight out of hell.” He further argues that the contraption isn’t conveniently sucking up harmful dust and dirt particles, but in fact you’re saving Satan-sperm that multiplies to create more hell minions! Tom cautions that anyone with “one lick of sense… will go right now to the sacred shrine room where your vacuum cleaner is entombed, and you will douse its plastic body with holy water and take that vacuum straight out to the trash.” Tom’s full of wisdom and helpful tips like this!
There’s a reason this book is titled The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and not The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Witches. Unlike the parody books that have become so popular, Mannetti didn’t just pepper some supernatural elements into an old classic. Tom and Huck remain in tact, but the story is completely fresh and inventive. Mannetti’s muses for this story were her real life twin cats named after the famous Twain creations because of their distinctive Tom and Huck-like qualities. Mannetti also exhibits a deep passion for classic literature, and of course Mark Twain in particular, which results in a very charming and personal story. Her respect and admiration for Twain is palpable in her treatment of his Tom and Huck characters. This is a magical tale of wonderment and a world of playful mystery that would make him proud.
The New Adventures… has an open ending, so hopefully Tom and Huck will be slinking back into our lives for another romp in the fascinating world Mannetti has created.
You can find out more about Lisa Mannetti’s projects past, present, and future at her website. Visit The Chancery House to meet Tom and Huck in the fur, sample exerts from the book, and hunt for ghosts! Learn more about the literary icon at The Official Web Site of Mark Twain.