In Wall’s debut novel, a young man survives a hurricane and moves to Massachusetts to plot a new future for himself.
When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, Jim Scoresby refuses to evacuate and stays behind to look after his grandfather’s house. He does so in the company of his friend, elderly jazz musician Freddy Beasley. Right before the hurricane, Jim had a confrontation with his father, who feared that Jim, who’s nearing 30, would never amount to anything. After Katrina, Jim ends up moving to Boston, where he finds success selling investments at the firm of Henretty & Henretty. There, he comes to the attention of its chief executive, Commodore Walter Henretty, and even begins to date the boss’s daughter, Maureen. When Walter decides to put him in charge of his yacht brokerage business on Cape Cod, Jim jumps at the chance but finds that the spoiled Maureen is unhappy; she wants him to stay with her in Boston. All the while, Jim misses New Orleans and wonders if he’ll ever move back home or if he’ll make a new life for himself in New England. Things come to a head when Jim agrees to accompany Walter for a test drive of his recently overhauled schooner, and an encounter with a white squall leads to tragedy. Wall delivers a full-blooded, old-fashioned novel about love, ambition and money that’s reminiscent of the works of Richard Powell, Vance Bourjaily, James Gould Cozzens and other midcentury American authors. From Boston’s Beacon Hill to New Orleans’ Frenchman Street, the book does an excellent job of evoking a sense of place and contains any number of memorable scenes, particularly the two storms that bookend the story. Even though, as a character, Jim seems a little too good to be true, the author surrounds him with an engaging cast of New England types. Unfortunately, at over 400 pages, the narrative seems somewhat padded, and even the most patient readers will grow tired of its many digressions.
A novel with many positive attributes but not enough conflict to justify its length.