The Cajuns: A Novel Hardcover – Aug 3 2004
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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.
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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?
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.
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!
Incidentally, what ever happened to Hyman Sackett and E. J. Taul ?