A tortured, convoluted first novel, set in the southern Louisiana cypress marshes, about a violent Cajun placed under a curse. The story, pretending to be oral history, concerns Adrian Cancienne, a man born in the Louisiana swamp during a dry autumn--or leechtime (the lowest days for the soul)--and takes place on a single day: October 20, 1976, the day a ferry collided with a tanker on the Mississippi. Full of violence, the threat of violence, and a haunted bayou atmosphere, the novel uses multiple voices: Adrian, nearly deaf from a water-tower accident; his confidant Simon, a former seminarian who saved Adrian's life; Adrian's wife Sara, who leaves him; Renard Perilleaux, the parish sheriff and Adrian's former Vietnam buddy; and Monsieur Red, a mad preacher. Sara, college-educated, moves with Adrian to a marsh fishing camp; there, spooked by Adrian and the marsh, she gets involved with another man, and finally wreaks vengeance for Adrian's violent reaction by taking up with Simon. But she leaves them both on October 20 via the doomed ferry. The fateful day includes a hunt by Adrian and Simon for a mythical manatee; lots of worked-over folklore and high-strung dialogue among the feverish denizens of the marsh; and a climax at the water tower that brings most of the characters (as well as reporters and cameras) together for a reunion orchestrated by Renard. The sheriff becomes a hero on the evening news, and Adrian survives his curse, though barely. Gothic anti-romance--sometimes shrill and self-indulgent, but worth reading for its sense of place and its bedeviled cast of grotesques.