An oil company lawyer moves home to New Orleans and finds that his fortuneteller mother has disappeared in Clarke’s (The Worthy, 2006, etc.) novel.
Duke Melançon grew up in New Orleans, at the corner of Magazine and Napoleon, in a fancy, inherited house that his wild Cajun family has practically destroyed. His father married a Russian fortuneteller, known as Madame Melançon, and they had seven sons and one girl. The youngest son, Duke, is a corporate lawyer in the External Affairs Department for oil giant Mandala Worldwide. During an accident on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 workers died, and oil is pouring into the Gulf. The company transfers Duke and his wife and kids to New Orleans to deal with the fallout, and Duke learns of a family crisis “when their witchy mother runs out into the hot, syrupy night, chasing a calico cat.” Madame Melançon doesn’t come home, and the family launches a search effort while Duke’s new home is invaded by a gaze of raccoons. As Duke’s wife and kids flee the craziness for Houston, Duke searches for answers about his mother from colorful locals, including a Kurt Vonnegut–like homeless guy and a shady villain. An elusive necklace of gold coins may hold the key to Madame’s location as Duke tries to stay afloat with his career and his marriage. Clarke’s riotous, amusing novel parallels real events, namely the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which does help ground a story that moves toward a moderately supernatural conclusion. The Melançons’ stomping ground, the boisterous streets of New Orleans, is described in raucous and earthy details, a perpetual morning-after that juxtaposes inebriated tourists and battered locals. The family crisis is as pressing as the oil disaster. It’s all very entertaining but also raises consequential questions about whether money can solve a moral crisis.
A bizarrely soulful ride through New Orleans with corporate high jinks and some mystical, unseen forces adding to the experience.