In this dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, C. Read more...
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In this dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, C. Morgan Babst takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina and the life of a great city.
As the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora Boisdor refuses to leave the city. Her parents, Joe Boisdor , an artist descended from freed slaves who became the city's preeminent furniture makers, and his white "Uptown" wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, are forced to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic--the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.
This mystery is at the center of Babst's haunting and profound novel. Cora's sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the successful life she built in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city and the trauma of a disaster that was not, in fact, some random act of God but an avoidable tragedy visited on New Orleans's most vulnerable citizens. Separately and together, each member of the Boisdor clan must find the strength to remake home in a city forever changed.
The Floating World is the Katrina story that needed to be told--one with a piercing, unforgettable loveliness and a vivid, intimate understanding of this particular place and its tangled past.
- ISBN-13: 9781616205287
- ISBN-10: 1616205288
- Publisher: Algonquin Books
- Publish Date: October 2017
- Page Count: 384
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
A family in the wreckage
A new novel about Hurricane Katrina could seem like retreading ancient history. That was before Hurricane Harvey made an ocean of southeast Texas and harassed Louisiana. Before Irma smashed into the Caribbean and Florida, and Maria into Puerto Rico. All made landfall close to the 12th anniversary of Katrina, which left wounds that are still raw.
C. Morgan Babst’s debut novel draws its title from a Japanese phrase signifying ephemerality, but it doubles as a description of New Orleans after Katrina. As a fictional retelling thereof, the book has few superiors. In Babst’s phrase, Katrina was a “hate crime of municipal proportion,” referring to the racial disparity in the storm’s victims.
Reminiscent of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, The Floating World is also a meditation on kinship and family history. Like Franzen’s chaotic family, the one here is ambivalent toward their hometown. Before Katrina, the protagonist, Del, escaped to New York. After Katrina, the family patriarch sinks into assisted living. Their relations with each other and the world are stormy. One of them might have committed a murder.
The Deep South can seem fatalistic at the best of times, but the hurricane dragged this to new depths. Babst evokes Katrina’s symbology, like the Xs marking houses containing the deceased. She also revisits discussions about whether NOLA has a future in light of rising seas, to what extent the city’s devil-may-care ethos contributed to its destruction, and how the media fed off the Big Easy’s pain.
The author resists the temptation to turn her novel into a tract or advocacy—not that it lacks passion. To the contrary, the novel is very much of our irritable, harried times.
Like Harvey, Katrina was not just a storm but also a reconfiguration of a community. Babst’s novel is an invaluable record of that social devastation—and a warning of the devastations like Harvey to come.