This is a review I wrote for this blog, but I posted it to Book Babe first. It's definitely the sort of post that's more suited to this blog.
When I reviewed the Jewell Parker Rhodes children's fantasy Bayou Magic recently here,
I said that I wanted to catch up on novels by Rhodes that I hadn't
read. That included this final book in her contemporary mystery trilogy
about Dr. Marie Levant, a physician descended from Voodoo priestess
Marie Lavaux. Levant became a Voodoo priestess herself after
re-locating to New Orleans.
As readers might expect Hurricane deals
with Hurricane Katrina, but not a description of NOLA's experience of
Katrina. Rhodes doesn't even reveal the post-Katrina fate of Charity
Hospital where Dr. Levant worked. I personally discovered what happened
to Charity Hospital while watching a Book TV discussion on C-SPAN 2 on We're Still Here Ya Bastards, a
non-fiction book by Roberta Brandes Gratz about NOLA's recovery. If
you're interested, you can read Gratz's article on Charity Hospital
which appeared in The Nation here.
Now it's time to begin the review of what Hurricane did include.
starts with Marie Levant discovering an entire family murdered in their
home outside the small fictional African American community of
Delaire. When she reports the crime in NOLA, no action is taken. So
she decides to investigate herself and discovers that the case is much
larger than she ever imagined. I was exposed to some very sad
information that I can't unlearn now about the tragedy of environmental
degradation in the Mississippi Delta that didn't begin with the
Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is a novel about real life horror and
monsters that do exist. Similar environmental atrocities can and do
Delaire also had a Hoodoo woman known
as Nana who was a visionary and a healer. She had seen that Marie was
coming to Delaire. Dr. Levant was expected to be their savior, but
addressing symptoms without any knowledge of the underlying cause is not
really healing. In fact, it can be a terrible mistake.
recognized one of the spirits that Nana worked with. She was Mami
Wata, the mermaid goddess from West Africa who I encountered in Rhodes' Bayou Magic. As
a nature spirit, the interests of Mami Wata did not necessarily
coincide with those of humans. This was a spiritual lesson that Marie
Levant needed to learn while Katrina descended on her city.
I've said a great deal about the themes of Hurricane
and their implications in this review, but I don't think I can convey
the brilliance of this book. Readers must experience the hard truths
that Hurricane uncovers for themselves.