The Westing Game

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The Westing Game
Westing cover.jpg
First edition
Author Ellen Raskin
Country United States
Genre Mystery
Publisher E. P. Dutton
Publication date
1978
Pages 216 pg
ISBN 0-525-47137-5
OCLC 53292898
LC Class PZ7.R1817 We 2003

The Westing Game is a mystery novel written by Ellen Raskin and published by Dutton in 1978. It won the Newbery Medal recognizing the year's most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.[1] The story features the adventures of Sam Westing's sixteen heirs after they receive his challenge to figure out the secret of his death. The Westing Game was ranked number nine among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal in 2012.[2] It has been adapted as the 1997 feature film Get a Clue (also distributed as The Westing Game).[citation needed]

Premise[edit]

Sixteen people, all tenants in the Sunset Towers, brought there by Barney Northrup to this apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan, are named as heirs in the will of the self-made millionaire, Samuel W. Westing. Sunset Towers, despite the name, faces east, where the sun rises. The will is structured as a puzzle, with the heirs divided into eight pairs, and challenged to find the solution, each pair is given $10,000 cash and a different set of clues which, when reassembled, form nearly all of the lyrics to the first verse of "America the Beautiful." The pair that solves the mystery will inherit Westing's entire $200 million fortune and control of his paper products company. Past and present secrets about the heirs begin to emerge as the game progresses.

Characters[edit]

Pair One[edit]

  • Jacob "Jake" Wexler is a Jewish podiatrist, and a bookie on the side. He is married to Grace Wexler, whom he loves, but he also knows that she might never be happy with their life or financial situation. Jake is the father of Angela Wexler and "Turtle" Wexler.
  • Madame Sun Lin Hoo is the Chinese immigrant wife of James Shin Hoo. She barely speaks English, and can usually be found working in Mr. Hoo's restaurant. It is rumored that Mr. Hoo married her for her sauce recipe. Madame Hoo also steals various items throughout the story in order to sell them and buy a trip back to China.

Pair Two[edit]

  • Judge J.J. Ford, a black, intelligent, and serious woman, is suspicious of the game created by Mr. Westing, and instead of winning, her goal is discovering the past of every heir. She is used to working alone, but is partners with Sandy McSouthers.
  • Alexander "Sandy" McSouthers is the doorman at Sunset Towers. He previously worked at Westing Paper Products Corporation and claims to have been fired by Sam Westing himself for attempting to organize the workers. McSouthers is notable for his knowledge of Sunset Towers' gossip. He is later revealed to be Windy Windkloppel, who is also known as Samuel Westing, Barney Northrup, and Julian R. Eastman.

Pair Three[edit]

  • Grace Wexler, married to Jake Wexler and mother of Angela and Turtle, is a fierce and self-centered woman who is obsessed with her own image. She favors Angela over Turtle, while largely ignoring Turtle. She claims to be Mr. Westing's niece, and she purports her name as Grace Windsor Wexler, although it actually is Gracie Windkloppel Wexler. Grace wants to be an interior designer.
  • James Shin Hoo is a middle-aged Chinese man, owner of Shin Hoo's restaurant and former entrepreneur, likewise, Madame Hoo's husband and a father of Doug. He claims Mr. Westing stole his patent for the disposable diaper and appears bitter and moody for this reason. He suffers from ulcers, and he can often be seen yelling at his son to study.

Pair Four[edit]

  • Tabitha-Ruth Wexler, also known as "Turtle" and "Alice" is an intelligent 13-year-old girl, whose main feature is her single, long, dark braid of which she is very protective. She excels at playing the stock market. She is very fond of both Sandy McSouthers and her partner Flora Baumbach, and she also loves her family, even though her sister Angela seems to be favored.
  • Flora Baumbach is a shy 60-year-old dressmaker who becomes a mother-figure to her partner, Turtle. Her daughter, Rosalie, had Down syndrome and died of pneumonia at a young age. Her husband disappeared, and it is unknown whether he died or if there was a divorce. Flora is a kind old woman to everyone.

Pair Five[edit]

  • Christos "Chris" Theodorakis is a 15-year-old paraplegic teenage boy who is confined to a wheelchair due to his disease. Despite being handicapped, he is very intelligent, and also enjoys birdwatching. His brother, Theo, is very protective of him, and Chris also develops a temporary relationship with Sydelle Pulaski. He also stutters and cannot control his muscles well due to his disease.
  • Dr. Denton Deere is a 25-year-old medical intern. He is engaged to Angela, but their relationship is not very loving. Dr. Deere is very arrogant, and extremely proud of the medical industry. He has an obsession with giving diagnoses to almost everyone. He later becomes a neurologist.

Pair Six[edit]

  • Bertha Erica Crow is an extremely religious 57-year-old woman. Tight and introverted, she works as a cleaning woman for Sunset Towers. She plays a major role in Westing's plot, as it is revealed that she was formerly Mr. Westing's wife.
  • Otis J. Amber is a 62-year-old private investigator disguised as a delivery boy. He is often with Berthe Erica Crow, whom Sam Westing tasked him with watching.

Pair Seven[edit]

  • Theo Theodorakis is a smart high school student, and very loyal to his family. He is protective of his brother Chris, and works hard in his parents' coffee shop. He is interested in becoming a writer, and also becomes friends with his partner, Doug Hoo.
  • Doug Hoo is a high school track star, one of the best mile-runners in the state and a son of James Shin Hoo and Madame Hoo. Running is his passion, but his father often criticizes him for not studying.

Pair Eight[edit]

  • Angela Wexler is a beautiful 20-year-old girl: fair, blonde, and very pretty. She is considered the 'perfect' daughter, often getting more attention than her sister Turtle. However, people only acknowledge her as an attractive object to be married to Dr. Denton Deere, and not an intelligent woman in her own right. She, throughout the book becomes more independent and non perfect. Angela turns out to be the bomber in Sunset Tower, though Turtle takes the blame for this.
  • Sydelle Pulaski is a mysterious character, with seemingly no connection to Mr. Westing or the other heirs, but that could be because she is a mistake. No one pays any attention to her, so she tries her hardest to be noticed. She seems to have an affinity for Chris Theodorakis.

Other characters[edit]

  • Samuel Westing was an extremely rich businessman who immigrated to the United States at a young age. Mr. Westing grew his Westing Paper Products business into a large corporation, partly by using tactics such as bribery and intimidation. However, Westing was very patriotic, and never smoked, drank, or gambled.
  • Barney Northrup is a mysterious figure who sold all of the apartments in Sunset Towers to the various heirs. After this, he is rarely seen by any of the tenants.
  • Julian R. Eastman runs Westing Paper Products in Mr. Westing's absence. He was a witness to Mr. Westing's will.
  • Dr. Sidney Sikes is a good friend of Samuel Westing, and a witness to his will.
  • Edgar J. Plum is the lawyer in charge of handling Samuel Westing's estate. He is very young, and fairly incompetent.

Epilogue[edit]

The epilogue of the story is told in the book's last three chapters, which depicts the heirs growing older and more successful, many of them changing their lives as a result of the game.

  • Crow and Otis Amber fall in love and are married, both leaving their jobs at Sunset Towers to work at Crow's soup kitchen, which many of the heirs leave donations to. Both die within a week of one another after several years of life together.
  • Flora Baumbach leaves the dressmaking business a few years after the game's conclusion, becoming Turtle's close friend and later Alice's nanny.
  • Denton Deere and Angela Wexler both question their life choices and ultimately separate, with Denton becoming a neurologist due to his success in treating Chris, and Angela returning to medical school and becoming a surgeon. Five years after the game's conclusion, the two are reunited, marry, and have a daughter named Alice.
  • Judge Ford agrees to finance Chris' education in homage to her mentor, Sam Westing. She is elected to the US Court of Appeals and later the Supreme Court.
  • Sun Lin Hoo ultimately never leaves her husband and adopts the nickname "Sunny." She becomes fluent in English, and becomes James' secretary in his new company. After he dies she finally takes her trip to China, but returns to take up the family business.
  • James Hoo leaves the restaurant business and gives "Hoo's on First" to Grace. He patents his shoe-sole idea and becomes a multimillionaire, and moves out of Sunset Towers with his family. He dies briefly before the story concludes, being succeeded in the company by his wife.
  • Doug Hoo wins his first Olympic gold medal and set a new record for the 1500 meter run shortly after the game ends, and goes on to win two more. Retiring from athletics, he becomes a popular sports announcer.
  • Chris Theodorakis ultimately conquers his muscle disease and stuttering thanks to Denton's extensive work with him, though he never overcomes being wheelchair-bound. His college education is financed by Judge Ford, and he meets a girl named Shirley during his first year. The two later marry and become professors at the local university. Chris discovers and names a new breed of parrot during a safari in Central America.
  • Sydelle Pulaski returns to her old job at Schultz' Sausages, and discovers that Mr. Schultz has a crush on her. She later marries him. The pair move to Hawaii, though Sydelle stays in touch with Angela. She gives up using crutches to get attention but requires the use of them several times over the ending's course.
  • Jake Wexler becomes unsatisfied with his job as a podiatrist, quits, and is recommended to a political position by Judge Ford. He becomes the Chairman of the State Gambling Commission and then the Wisconsin State Crime Commissioner, though the jobs give him little time to spend with his wife.
  • Grace Wexler takes up James' restaurant, renaming it "Hoo's on First" and giving it a theme of local sports stars. It gets rave reviews. The success of "Hoo's on First" ultimately results in a chain of ten such restaurants, the latest of which allows her to work close to her husband in Madison.
  • Theo Thedorakis attends a literary college, becoming an assistant to the reporter who writes the article about Doug's first gold medal. He later becomes a novelist. His first novel does not sell well, but at the book's end he has almost finished his second book. Theo marries Turtle, though they agree not to have children lest the children inherit Chris' disease. Theo and Chris' parents move to Florida after retiring from their coffee shop business.
  • Tabitha-Ruth "Turtle" Wexler, having discovered Sam Westing's secret life and solving the game, is dedicated to being his successor and ultimately the president of Westing Paper Products. She takes on the nickname of T.R., attends college early (she is only 18 in her second year of college), and makes over $5,000,000 in the stock market. Turtle marries Theo and begins tutoring Angela's daughter Alice to play chess.
  • Alexander 'Sandy' McSouthers is revealed to be Samuel Westing, Barney Northrup, and Julian Eastman. He becomes Turtle Wexler's mentor, pays for her expensive education, and plays chess with her every Saturday, although she tells people she is 'at the library'. He dies on the Fourth of July.

Other media[edit]

The Westing Game, adapted by Darian Lindle and directed by Terry Brino-Dean, was first produced at Prime Stage Theatre in Pittsburgh in 2009. The script is published by Dramatic Publishing.

Get A Clue, adapted by Dylan Kelsey Hadley and directed by Terence H. Winkless was produced for television in 1997.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Newbery Medal & Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal (blog.schoollibraryjournal.com). Retrieved 2015-10-28. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Bridge to Terabithia
Newbery Medal recipient
1979
Succeeded by
A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal