While some of us were sitting high and dry watching the coverage of Katrina on the wide screens, Shay and Corbin (and Ms.Rodgers) were wading through the fetid brackish sewage in what was left of “Nawlins;” Rodgers as a Red Cross volunteer, Shay and Corbin as the well-drawn main characters in Ms. Rodgers’s entertaining retrospective of Katrina followed closely by Hurricane Rita.
The Hurricane Lover is a murder mystery, a thriller, and an exposé of “Heck of a job Brownie,” Halliburton, Nagin, Dubya, Fugate, FEMA, Homeland Security and all the others who failed us as taxpayers and left the drowning residents of Louisiana gasping for breath and dying on their roof tops. From August 26 through September 27 of 2005, we follow an ensemble cast of rich and poor, babies to Nammas, including the grand old trees dripping with Spanish moss, the brocade sofas in the parlors, the sculptures, the art collections, almost all submerged by the power of that storm.
The scenes are terrifying:
“…she lost her footing and stumbled backward, the fetid current closing in up to her neck. Flailing against an unknowable snarl of God knows what–spider legs, cypress roots, rats, shrunken heads, voodoo hair–she fought for her feet, gasping, gagging, slapping at the twigs and piano wires and unidentified, terrifying shit that tangled in her ponytail and clothes. Trapped between the woman’s backpack and a tree branch, she went down again, grinding her knees against a submerged row of pointed pavers that lined the sidewalk…” Just remember: no lights, no potable water, no dry beds, no privacy, no food, no toilets for days on end, even for those “lucky” enough to get to the Superdome.
The plots and subplots are complex. The villains (and there is at least one) are ruthless. And there are surprise twists and turns. Who was that caller near the end who identified himself as “Halliburton?” But I must say, the Steel Magnolias steal all the scenes.”Mommi and her church ladies were doing pedicures for women at the Astrodome.” The men have their bourbon and Glenfiddich and mathematical models, but are they really predictive? And what about a woman’s predictive model? You’ll find out.
Meanwhile, the verses of a Cajun lullaby, like the assurances of FEMA (not), initially lulled us into thinking FEMA would take care of our fellow countrymen and women. “C’est la petite poule blanche, qui a pondu dans la branche, un petit coco pour mon bébé faire dodo …” (A little white hen laid in the branch a little egg So my baby could sleep) Now we know we are all on our own, should disaster strike, except for the kindness of the Red Cross, our local charities, and the random act of kindness of which Shay and Corbin found themselves capable.
Shay of the Houston Hoovestahls and the Dallas McKecknies had a dream of getting a really gritty hard news story to impress her boss and get a serious job at the television station. Dr. Corbin,of the Louisiana Thibodeaux family, would rather be correct than sorry. The two managed to achieve détente as well as copious “engagements”, despite the reality that she’s from a devout Republican family (in the way of Southern Baptists, perhaps) and he a “goddang” liberal who “preached the gospel of evacuation. Preached it like a Baptist.” “Hurricane Lover” is just one of the delightful double-entendres sprinkled throughout the book, some en Francais, some in English.We get a revealing peek at the Deep South in 2005. Ms. Rodgers is a skillful, very humorous and powerful writer and all the other characters: Char and Robert, Mickey, Guy, Bonnie, Millie, Watts, Sykes and Louisa live on her pages. My advice is to buy and read this book!