Big Doins in the Big Easy: Racial and domestic tensions play out against the backdrop of Hurricane Ivan, the Tokyo Rose Bar and La Belle Nouvelle, a French Quarter hotel.
Ed Flank and Ariel May (and their two children, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis May) have recently moved from Minnesota to New Orleans so Ariel can manage La Belle Nouvelle—and she gets much more than she bargained for. While she’s preoccupied with the hotel, Miles starts to turn into a seven-year-old homeboy, and Ed, a Buddhist, is barely managing to keep his cool in the heat of the city. The ethnically diverse neighborhood they move into—far different from the homogeneity of the North—includes the Guptas, an academic couple from India; Cerise, a woman who from her perch on her front porch has for years watched the neighborhood drama unfold before her eyes; Philomenia Beauregard de Bruges (aka “Prancie”), who keeps a journal that chronicles her growing dementia; and Sharon Harris, whose two sons, Michael and Daniel (street names Muzzle and Fearius), succumb to life on the streets by getting mixed up with dope-dealer Alphonse. As Hurricane Ivan approaches, the psychological tension ratchets up several notches. While Ed and the children leave with the Guptas to escape Ivan, Ariel stays behind to cater to guests wanting to party up a storm, as it were. Ariel has been finding herself erotically attracted to Javier, the young sous chef at the hotel’s restaurant, and Ed’s absence allows her to act on her impulses, a decision she comes to regret later when Javier contemplates suing her for sexual harassment. Boyden (Pretty Little Dirty, 2006, etc.) inhabits a number of voices over the course of the narrative. Fearius, for example, “dont wanna rap with slow boy Boo, but it aint a good idea if he perch hisself on some neighbor stoop.”
After some intense emotional interaction, the novel devolves into a dissatisfying and somewhat unbelievable conclusion of killing and reconciliation.