The Floating World (review)

The Floating World
C. Morgan Babst
Algonquin Books

October 15. Forty-seven days after landfall.

The Boisdore family is collapsing, the levees of their carefully constructed life breached by the destruction that wthe floating worldas Hurricane Katrina. The patriarch Vincent, once a renowned New Orleans furniture carver, drifts in and out of dementia, one moment clear-thinking, the next living in the past. His son Joe, an sculptor, has made his name in the art world with his primitive carvings, and life had been good. Joe’s wife Dr. Tess Eshleman is a successful psychologist with a thriving practice. And family money. Now their daughter Cora is suffering from the trauma of the death and destruction she witnessed during the storm; her sister Del leaves her life in New York behind to rescue them all. Their historic home on Esplanade is destroyed, a life of privilege gone, a marriage in ruins.

Katrina only reveals what has slowly been unraveling all along. It’s a sobering thought.

So Cora’s mental illness is just a symptom of family dysfunction. And Joe and Tess, the biracial couple who years earlier risked everything for their love, had simply glossed over differences they couldn’t deal with. Del finds she can’t save her family because she’s not yet set her own feet on the solid ground of adult life.

Writer C. Morgan Babst peels back the characters’ shortcomings until they are defenseless before us, not certain who they are without the veneer of social niceties.

Ninety-three days after landfall and the rebuilding begins. For some, more than others.

But aren’t we all of us just a hurricane–metaphorically speaking, anyways–away from finding our lives flung open and ripped apart? By disease. Unexpected death. Addiction. Estrangement. It’s how we confront that reality that will define us.

If you want a novel that is gritty and revealing–thought-provoking–The Floating World would be it.

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