An adventure-driven novel chronicles an eventful road trip taken by a dying man and the Cajun French version of Forrest Gump.
Boudreaux Clemont Finch generally responds to Peck—short for Peckerwood—a moniker he was given as a child for his imprudent loquaciousness. Peck works at a hospice in Carencro, Louisiana, as a yardman and caretaker, and one of the patients—Gabe Jordan—conspires to escape with his help. Gabe, an older man who’s dying from stomach cancer, is a widower whose son died while serving in Iraq. He wants to make his way to Newport, Rhode Island, for a jazz festival there, but due to Peck’s errant navigation, they find themselves in New Orleans. Gabe decides to make the best of their detour, and they head to famous Frenchman Street to hear some jazz. There, Gabe meets Sasha, the owner of a successful real estate firm and who’s also Cajun French, and the romantic chemistry between the two immediately begins to simmer. Sasha is so taken with him she offers to drive the two tourists as far as Memphis in her Bentley, and slowly Gabe reveals to her his sad plight. Peck is later suspected of kidnapping Gabe and is eventually arrested for the crime. Sasha has to find Gabe—now off on his own—to prove Peck’s innocence. Ensconced within the engaging and surprising main plot is a secondary crime drama—a violent biker steals Gabe’s pain medication, and Peck heroically retrieves it with the help of two travelers, one of whom is stabbed by the thief. With the assistance of a young woman he meets on a Greyhound bus, Peck attempts to track down the thug. Antil (Return to Tiffany’s, 2017, etc.) has a gift for conjuring magnetically complex characters, with Peck the best of them: an illiterate, nearly incomprehensible, French-speaking 25-year-old man who’s so deeply sensitive he’s irresistible to women. The author overzealously packs too much plot into a short novel—Peck’s hunt for the fugitive is an unnecessary narrative distraction. But the story as a whole brims with charm and authentic emotions.
A delightfully quirky tale both unpredictable and affecting.