The Floating World
Author: C. Morgan Babst
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 2017
Hardcover Edition: 370 pages
Source: Personal copy
“EVERYTHING MOVED ON, AND NO MATTER HOW YOU TRIED TO STOP IT, THE EARTH KEPT SPINNING IN THE INFINITE SKY.”
This novel written in powerful detail takes the reader inside survival and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The fast-moving storm wrecks homes, families and numerous relationships. Stacked up against both fiction and non-fiction about this storm of 10 years ago, no other read has so effectively taken the reader through the emotions of this storm.
There is mystery and suspense as the Boisdore family searches for a daughter and strives to discover what happened to her or what acts she may have committed in the aftermath of the storm. Deep feelings generated this story and as such it is real, tense and filled with grief. The author is a New Orleans native.
Hurricane Katrina brought destruction of different kinds, personal and political. Here the author gives us a close up of one family’s struggle. Not unlike the television series Treme that focused on one neighborhood, this story focuses on one family, a family with a deep history in the city, a family with some resources and a network of friends and family across racial lines. In both cases we see the damage up close and in a personal way. Personal trauma and natural disasters often exacerbate one another. This story is enlightening as it shows what can happen when the two collide.
The writing is detailed and real. Words and sentences are strung together with beauty and strength. Finding out just what happened to the family’s daughter Cora is perhaps a bit convoluted, but provides the forward movement the story needs as the storm abates and the ugly aftermath must be faced. As in so many novels these days, time moves around and the story is told from the viewpoint of a number of characters. One purpose is to keep the story interesting since it’s easy to get bogged down in the mud from the storm and the family dysfunction. For the most part the author gives readers markers to clarify time and place.
Its an exciting read, but not an easy one, enlarging our understanding of New Orleans and of what the damage of hurricanes can mean to people caught in the wind gusts and rising waters. As a debut novel, it hits a high mark. We readers can expect more from this author.