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The Cajuns: A Novel [Hardcover]

Gus Weill

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Book Description

Aug. 3 2004

A richly textured, deeply atmospheric, and engaging novel set in a small Louisiana town in the 1950s, The Cajuns tells a captivating tale of love, life, death, and intrigue in a wonderfully bizarre yet corrupt culture.

The descendants of French Canadians who migrated to southern Louisiana in the mid-eighteenth century, Cajuns are known for their fiery and passionate dispositions. In his remarkably moving new novel, Louisiana native Gus Weill presents an affectionate yet unstinting look at Cajun culture in the small town of Richelieu -- a world in which the mix of promiscuity, ribald humor, extreme violence, and devout Catholicism is a way of life.

Bobby Boudreaux is the sheriff of Richelieu, where the only laws people respect are those that dictate how much pepper goes into the stew and, of course, the edicts of the Catholic Church. It was not a job Bobby wanted -- in fact, once out of school, his dream had been to escape into the larger world as fast as he possibly could. But life -- and a strong-willed father -- got in the way.

On most days being parish sheriff is not that demanding. Yes, laws get broken, but no one else seems to mind, so why should he? Thus, when Ti Boy Brouliette, an altar boy and an all-around good kid, dies in a mysterious gun accident, Bobby's only official action is to join the townsfolk who congregate at the home of the family, offering comfort to the grieving parents. What he doesn't realize, though, is that his life -- and that of everyone in Richelieu -- is about to change forever.

Among those gathered at Ti Boy's home is Ruth Ann Daigle, a beautifully sexy and worldly young woman who has returned to her hometown to help out her ailing father, who runs the local newspaper. Ruth Ann intimates to Bobby that she is not convinced that Ti Boy's death was an accident and, as a reporter for the paper, she intends to investigate. Bobby, annoyed by the suggestion that he's not doing his job, is afraid that Ruth Ann may be right. He also fears that Ruth Ann's arrival in Richelieu marks the end of a way of life he has come to depend on -- for not only does she threaten to challenge tradition, she has also awakened in him a sexual need that had grown dormant over the years, and soon his marriage is threatened as well.

Against this rich and vivid background, populated by a cast of colorful characters, Gus Weill has crafted a fascinating and compelling tale of a distinctive way of life threatened by scandal and of a unique culture on the brink of dramatic change.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Aug. 3 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743249798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743249799
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Told with lighthearted, slightly sardonic flair in a voice dripping Cajun patois as pure as bayou honey, this poignant, thoroughly engaging fable is set in the tiny southwest Louisiana backwater of Richelieu Parish in the mid-1950s, and recounts the foibles and tribulations of a soft-spoken, long-suffering homeboy sheriff. Uncharacteristically perturbed, Sheriff Bobby Boudreaux is torn between duty and his sense of what's right when a local altar boy dies in a troubling accident. Bobby isn't exactly free to act independently: he's married to the obese and bovine only daughter of Sen. Glenn "Papoot" Gaspard, making him brother-in-law to the saintly young parish priest, Father Justin Gaspard. To make matters worse, the sheriff is confronted at Ti Boy's funeral by seductive newspaper editor Ruth Ann Daigle, who raises questions about Ti Boy's supposedly self-inflicted shotgun blast to his head. As the hard-drinking Bobby succumbs to his attraction to Ruth Ann and the once all-powerful senator's future is suddenly threatened, the situation becomes even more conflicted. The moral gumbo thickens when the aged priest who hears Father Justin's confession feels obligated to violate canons of the Church and unburden his awful secret to the bishop. Stir this darkly imagined, Jax Beer–laced bouillabaisse to a zydeco beat and you have a rousing Cajun entertainment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Playwright and poet Weill's latest concerns a small Cajun community in 1950s Louisiana. Sheriff Bobby Boudreaux's hometown of Richelieu is the kind of place where Catholicism and Cajun cooking go hand-in-hand: a tight-knit community where folks go by names like Tooky, Possum, and Catfish, and even the whorehouse is respectable. Bobby's bayou is reminiscent of James Lee Burke's New Iberia in his Dave Robicheaux mysteries, but Sheriff Boudreaux doesn't delve as deep into his own personal conflicts as Robicheaux does, and he more or less avoids the seamier side of things by denying its existence. The town's veneer starts to crack, however, following the accidental death of a teenage altar boy. Ruth Ann, a saucy New Orleans journalist, begins to nose around what looks like a closed case, forcing Bobby to decide which is more important, keeping the peace or uncovering the truth. With deft characterization and natural dialogue that captures the Cajun cadences and character, Weill crafts a compelling and suspenseful drama that will appeal to literary fiction readers as well as mystery fans. Misha Stone
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Three days before the end of the school year, Bob Boudreaux, Sheriff of Richelieu Parish, Louisiana, walked down a short flight of steps at the rear of the courthouse where his gray unmarked Ford was parked, got in, turned on the ignition, and backed out onto St. Peter Street. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Caricature Not A Portrait March 11 2007
By C. Richard - Published on
I am a Cajun and can assure you that this book presents a ridiculous caricature of Cajun life. While there are some elements of actuality in the book, it gives a very wrong impression of what Cajuns are like. I realize that it is a work of fiction, but it is presented as written by some kind of expert on Louisiana. I think that Mr. Weill should be ashamed.

Notice this phrase from the book jacket: "a wonderfully bizarre yet corrupt culture". Does this refer to actual Cajun culture or the creation of Mr. Weill's insensitive mind? It is hard to tell what was intended.

This book will give the impression to people who don't know better that Cajuns are inherently a corrupt and stupid people. This is far from the truth.

I found it particularly galling and amusing at the same time to read the stupid comment by James Carville on the back cover. "Nobody but nobody knows the Cajun people like Gus Weill. Fantastic." Is it any wonder that Democrats cannot carry Louisiana in presidential elections anymore?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fine historical mystery July 28 2004
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
In 1956 Richelieu, Louisiana the local Cajuns love eating gumbo and gossiping about sexual scandals, political corruption and kickbacks. In fact most residents are proud of those who get away with cheating, which has made State Senator Papoot Gaspard a graft legend. Everyone in town knows that if it ain't broke leave it alone; graft is a way of life and not considered broken so keep the chats away from outsiders or become alligator bait.

Former resident New Orleans reporter Ruth Ann Daigle comes home to care for her dying father, the owner of the Richelieu newspaper. Investigating is in her genes and so she breaks the golden rule of minding ones business and makes inquiries into the death of tenant farmer Ti Boy, who killed himself while cleaning his gun. Although Sheriff Bobby Boudreaux as Papoot's son-in-law knows how he got the job and not to alienate the hand that feeds him, he considers joining Ruth Ann on her investigation partially because he finds her beautiful and intelligent while his spouse is an obese queen.

This historical mystery provides a powerful look at 1950s Bayou country with a host of local eccentric characters who turn from benign to deadly as the investigation begins to close in on what happened, something the leaders want buried. The story line is at its strongest as a period piece than as a crime thriller that loses some momentum with a second suicide. Still a pinch of voodoo mixed in with an interesting glimpse of the past starring solid casting leads to a fine tale though the uncovering of the truth seems anti-climatic just prior to the Billy Cannon era.

Harriet Klausner
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Cajuns Oct. 31 2004
By L. Young - Published on
I am 100% Cajun and grew up in "Cajun Country" in the 50's. The author reinforces the stereoptypes of the people of Acadiana that we fought to hard to temper. Like any other part of the U.S. with ethnic differences, the south has received much in the way of superior regional literature. Read James Lee Burke and one will understand the good and bad of Cajun Louisiana. This book is but a poor imitation of Burke's art and I'm sorry to say that after reading about half of The Cajuns I wanted to chuck the book across the room.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Savory Cajun Gumbo Of Great Characters, Plot & Mystery! Oct. 2 2004
By Jana L. Perskie - Published on
Gus Weill perfectly captures the Cajun culture, rich as a delicious gumbo, the musical patois, and the extraordinarily eccentric characters of Louisiana's backwater Richelieu Parish in 1956, where rampant political corruption and petty theft is a way of life. This is a town where the locals look-up to those who cheat successfully. Author Weill examines the resemblance of this tiny town to a large dysfunctional family, which somehow manages to get through life's tribulations with a little help from each other - in spite of themselves.

State Senator Papoot Gaspard, a local, has become a legend in his own time. He could have invented the concept of graft. His daughter Bebe, once beautiful, now obese, is a simple, loving woman married to town sheriff, Bobby Boudreaux. She eats uncontrollably to calm her libido. Bobby doesn't get turned-on by fat women. In a town of devout Catholics, Papoot's son, Father Justin, is the most righteous. Mayor Big Head Arceneaux; wealthy Big Shot Fontenot and his father, Li'l Shot; powerful lawyer Hurphy Perrault who has a club foot which no one notices because he is so rich; Bad A-s (sorry censorship rules!) Thibodeaux, the town drunk; Catfish Francois, cook extraordinaire; Possum Aucoin, the town barber who presides over all important parish business; One Lung Savoy, poolroom doyen; gas station owner President Prejean, (yes his 1st name is President), a man with definite political ambition; Misty, the local Madame and her business partner, Ballou Sinistere; local DJ NaNa Duhon and his ever present papoon, Lucky, also populate the novel. "The Cajuns" is worth reading just to bone up on the antics of these characters.

"The Cajuns" is more than a character and cultural study of life in rural Louisiana, mid-20th century, however. With all its humor and satire, this is a mystery and a poignant, moving drama. Former resident and New Orleans newspaper reporter Ruth Ann Daigle comes home to Richelieu to care for her dying father, owner of the local paper. She is super smart, sexy and sophisticated - so she sure stands out in Richelieu. Ruth Ann has never been one to mind her own business, which is why she excels as a reporter. She manages to vex her fellow citizens, soon after her arrival, by persistently inquiring into the supposedly accidental death of a local teen. Sheriff Boudreaux, who could be called the town's conscience, is at first resentful of Ruth Ann's continuous questioning. Then he becomes interested in joining her, in spite of his fear of alienating his powerbroker father-in-law. Long repressed feelings and urges ignite between the two as their investigation progresses.

Although the novel's pace plods at times, especially in the beginning, the characters are fascinating, funny and occasionally tragic. The mystery and conflicts are quite timely and relevant, over fifty years after the action takes place. I am glad I stuck with the book. It is worth it. Recommended!
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable March 22 2010
By Valerie Hartwell - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Cajuns is a fun read, probably more so for someone who is from the area. Nothing profound, nothing to make me want to re-read, but I am glad I read it. Part culture, part mystery, part romance, part character tableau.

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