Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on August 30, 2011
Genres/Lists: Diverse, Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
Following Hurricane Katrina, a slew of books about it came out in quick succession over the course of a year or two. It was a “popular” topic and I avoided every single one. I try not to read books that are written by authors who are attempting to capitalize on a catastrophic event while the event is still unfolding. There’s a big difference between historical fiction and riding that wave. So, even though it’s 8 years later, I was hesitant to read this book.
I’m not sure where I first saw it, but it had a good review and one of the things that jumped out at me what that the reviewer went out of their way to say that while this was a book that took place during Hurricane Katrina, the hurricane is a backdrop and in no way dictates the story. Basically, it could have been any number of hurricanes or rainstorms down in the bayou, and that the author was not attempting to profit from a sensational story about tragedy.
Let me just say that I flew through this book and the writer of that review (thanks to whoever you are) was entirely correct. Hurricane Katrina set the tone for the book, but did not propel the story on its own. Instead, the book takes place over 12 days, with each chapter representing a day and beginning the day Hurricane Katrina formed while ending after she makes landfall.
The story itself is about the Batiste family, who live in fictional Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Poor and living in the Pit, Esche and her three brothers struggle with day to day life 9 years after the death of their mother. While Esche is coming to terms with her own personal problems, her brother Skeetah is trying to take care of the new puppies his prized fighter pit bull, China, gave birth to. Meanwhile, Randall is trying to win a scholarship to basketball camp and Junior, the baby of the family, is just trying to keep up and not be left behind. I love that the author gives the reader a glimpse into the daily lives of a poverty-stricken family without evoking pity. Instead, their financial situation is simply a way of life and not something that they focus on or complain about.
I must point out that dogfighting is a big part of this book and that Chapter 8 was some of the most intense and difficult reading I have ever read (they also eat a shark, which I’m sure bothers me more than most people because I’m a huge shark conservationist). Despite these difficulties, it is a great book. It’s not a sunshine and rainbows book, but I think it has widespread appeal. The writing style, which is similar to Precious, Room, and The Help, is not one I typically enjoy. In fact, I haven’t read any of the books I just mentioned because I can’t get through the first chapter. BUT, I was able to get through this one with flying colors and I think it’s a great read for anyone who is interested in the the region.