Anything can happen in “Catfish Time,” as young Sawyer Brown learns when a monster cat named Ol’ One Eye eats his widowed mother’s cherished wedding ring. She falls sick, and for reasons as obvious as they are unexplainable, Sawyer and his friends must leave the family catfish farm on a quest through the bayou to retrieve the ring and save his mother.
Sawyer’s quest can be touching at times, especially when it brings him into a sort of spirit world where the Mississippi and Mekong deltas merge, and Sawyer makes peace with the loss of his father in Vietnam. But the book suffers from a confusing point of view, unnecessarily framed as a story told decades later by a character who isn’t even present for several key events and certainly couldn’t know what’s going on in other peoples’ heads. For the most part the authors keep the characters at a sort of cinematic middle distance; we see their quirks and hear their banter but never get close enough to experience what’s surely meant to be a journey of growth.