In this affective second novel from Story (More Than You Know, 2004), a Dallas-based violinist with the Fort Worth Symphony, New Orleans natives struggle to recover their lives as well as their property after Hurricane Katrina.
Julian Fortier, 36, who left Louisiana years ago to pursue his career as a jazz trumpeter and has had worldwide success, returns to New Orleans to search for his missing father Simon, 76, a retired chef whose house in the Treme neighborhood was ravaged by the hurricane. One of the first people Julian visits is Matthew Parmenter, who owned the high-end restaurant where Simon was chef and who gladly offers to help Julian’s search for him. Julian believes that Matthew, who is white, cheated Simon out of his rightful share of the wealth derived from a packaged version of Simon’s recipe for red beans and rice. When Matthew dies shortly thereafter, leaving his Garden District mansion and his recipe earnings to Simon, along with an apology, Julian must re-evaluate his easy judgments. Julian is also reunited with love-of-his-life Vel, who broke off their engagement shortly before he moved to New York because she refused to leave New Orleans. Now Vel accompanies Julian to Silver Creek Hollow, the Fortier family homestead north of the city where Julian hopes to find his father. Instead he discovers that a disreputable developer is attempting to wrest away the family’s ownership through tricky dealings. Julian has never felt a connection to the land Simon loved, but he begins to understand his father’s attachment. With the help of a fledgling lawyer (the evil developer’s estranged grandson), Julian and Vel fight for the land. Meanwhile Simon lies unrecognized in a hospital. Recovering consciousness, he makes his way back to Silver Creek. Story’s musical background infuses her novel with a lyrical rhythm that smooths the creakier plot machinations as engaging characters rebuild their relationships and their city.
The current oil-spill crisis only makes the hopefulness of this novel more moving, if heart-wrenching.