A dysfunctional family reflects the decay of New Orleans in debut author LaFlaur’s tale of brotherly love and menace.
Much like the lush, crumbling city in which it lives, the Weems family exists on the edge of decrepitude. Gasper, the deceased father whose odd demise haunts the ramshackle family home, was a cheerful but ineffectual man, and his ailing wife, Melba, and his elder son, Simpson, share his weak nature. If Gasper had any strength, it funneled into the younger son, Bartholomew, who holds his family hostage with his gargantuan body, constant consumption and zealous antics. He is the elephant in the room, and although his mother believes that he needs psychiatric help—and a job to augment her pitiful pension—she holds no sway over him. Neither does Simpson, his 36-year-old brother; he works a dead-end job in a copy shop by day and frequents a brothel by night—until his favorite nymphet, the only person he let through his emotional barriers, vanishes. Now all Simpson has left is his persistent dream of moving to San Francisco and becoming a poet, but his family ties bind him to his mother’s frailties and his brother’s psychotic tantrums. As Simpson wanders the “shadows of the city’s infrastructure” in the Gentilly section of town, he dreams of something else: fratricide. On those walks, LaFlaur’s descriptive talent shines. Fertile imagery drips like Spanish moss: the old buildings collapsing, “as though the humidity-sodden bricks were returning to mud,” while “cloud stacks glowed like the battlements of heaven.” Simpson’s mental landscape is equally vivid, drawn with such empathy and depth that readers will forgive his perpetual indecision and may even root for him to carry out the removal of his near-deranged brother.
A wholly involving story with Faulkner-ian characters in a fully realized setting.