Friday, July 28, 2006

Spirits and Closure in Louisiana

I just finished a beautiful book called The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue. I found it on Newt’s blog, so thanks Newt! I love ghosts stories, so that’s what attracted me to it, but it’s more than that. Domingue creates two worlds, connected by secrets that tickle the back of your mind, thinking that you’ve figured them out, but you don’t want to think about it too much because you don’t want to ruin how she reveals them.

Raziela Nolan has done everything her way, and in 1920s New Orleans, that’s not easy. She’s in college, preparing for medical school, rather than nursing. She puts pamphlets about birth control into books at the library so they will be found. And she’s hopelessly, deeply, and completely in love with Andrew. But a tragic accident cuts her life short and she is now “between,” a spirit who has chosen not to move on and who wonders the earth, usually because she feels a need to finish something. Over 70 years later, she happens upon Scott and Amy. She haunts their home and witnesses their trials, both women having to face secrets they had long ago buried.

Razie is the narrator. She floats and lingers and is a wonderful objective viewer of life around her. Domingue interweaves Razie’s story with Amy’s fluidly by alternating the stories, but she does it without cliffhangers that make you want to skim one character’s story to get back to the other’s. There are some twists and turns, and you have to keep track of the characters, but there is a plan, and it all comes clear.

One of the things I liked about this book is the way it is written. The words seem to float on the air as Razie narrates her existence as a spirit. Then, when the narration changes into her living life and Amy’s life, the description becomes more concrete. Here’s a passage where Razie, as a new spirit, is describing what it is like:

I hold a breeze within me for a moment. The magnolia cones will not split open for another two weeks, but I can smell a hint of the red seeds that will emerge, a cinnamon-cloves fragrance as rich as their color.

This book is definitely a romance, which isn’t my usual taste, but I did like it. There’s also a lovely Southern-ness about this book. That may be because I lived in Louisiana for 4 years, so I easily hear those accents and recognize those aspects. But Domingue is from Louisiana, so she has the ear for it and I think it translates to the page well. This book is also very sensual, all your senses are titillated through her descriptions, from the scents that people emanate when they are remembering something to the lovemaking between Razie and Andrew.

Next, I’m onto a Laurie R. King novel called Folly. I’ve read several of King’s Mary Russell (with Sherlock Holmes) books and love her writing. This is my first foray out of that series. I’m keeping that library card hot!


Newt said...

Cool. I'm glad you liked it. I'm reading another ghost story of sorts called Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest. I'm on page 107 and so far so good. I'll let you know how it turns out. This one so far is less romance and more mystery.

Susan said...

What a great review. OK, I just put all three books on hold and the Beekeeper's apprentence as a bonus. (I love online libraries!) Thanks to you and Newt for the head's up!

Kell said...

I loved The Beekeeper's Apprentence. That's what got me into the King books!

saz said...

Between you and your mom I can't keep up with all the books I now want to read. This sounds like another good one.