Excerpt from The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Floating World

by C. Morgan Babst

The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst X
The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2018, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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Print Excerpt

Forty-Seven Days after Landfall
October 15

The house bobbed in a dark lake. The flood was gone, but Cora still felt it wrapped around her waist, its head nestled on her hip. She laid her hands out, palms on its surface, and the drifting hem of her nightshirt fingered her thighs. Under her feet, lake bed slipped: pebbles and grit, mud broken into scales that curled up at their edges. Her legs dragged as she moved under the tilting crosses of the electrical poles, keeping her head tipped up, her mouth open. Her fingers trailed behind her, shirring the water that was air.

Troy's bloated house reeked of flood. Dirt, mildew, algae, the smell of the dead. On the dusty siding, she traced the line of sediment that circled the house, high up where the water had come. Beside the door was the mark of the storm:.

The broken concrete of the driveway seesawed, and the kitchen window was still open as she and Troy had left it when they came for the children, the shutters banged flat against the weatherboard. The little boy had jumped at her from the windowsill, naked except for a pair of water wings, a frenzy of brown and orange. She closed her eyes — Blot it out — but even in the dark, she could feel his head cupped in her hand. She could hear Reyna screaming. She saw herself rocking in the pirogue in the thick air, the little boy nestled against her chest. The flood had floated them high.

Now, she got up and put one foot against the siding, two hands on the sill. She strained, scrambled, jumped. She hauled her body up and perched in the window, her muscles trembling.

The moon cast Cora's shadow, long and black, across the kitchen floor, where a woman lay, her face no longer a face, only a mess of blackened blood. She shut her eyes. Blot it out. But when she looked again Reyna's body still lay curled, as if in sleep, around the shotgun that was missing from the house on Esplanade, her arm trailing awkwardly behind her like something ripped apart by a strong wind.

Blot it out, Mrs. Randsell had told her. So she had been sleeping. Drugs like a dark river to drown in. But now she felt again the gun recoil against her shoulder. Saw again the light of the blast in the high hall. Blot it out,but she could see as clear as if it were happening again in front of her now: Troy standing above her at the top of the stairs, the little boy reaching out to stroke his mother's smooth, unmaddened brow. She saw Reyna press her face against the window, her eyes plucked out by birds. Cora looked down from the window, and the pool of blood whirled through the woman's face, through the kitchen floor, pulling her under. The storm threw a barge against the floodwall. The surge dug out handfuls of sand. The Gulf bent its head and rammed into the breach until it had tunneled through to air. The lowest pressure ever recorded, the radio voices said, and the vacuum pulled at her, her nightdress snapping against her body like a flag.

Night poured in through the window. Stars streaked down through the sky. She would fall. She was falling. The flood's reek rose.



Thursday
October 20

Today, Tess told herself, they would make it to the hedge.The confederate jasmine that Laura Dobie had trained along her iron fence had begun to insinuate itself into the boxwoods, and ripping it out was the least they could do. The least we can do, Tess told Cora, considering the Dobies are lending us their house. The main objective, of course, was just to get Cora out of bed, but Dan Dobie really had been so sweet — the way he'd just thrown his house keys at her through the car window as he and Laura headed out of town.

"Keeping their house from falling down in their absence is really the very least we can do," Tess said, petting her daughter's arm, and Cora slid her skeletal legs off the mattress of her childhood bed, let her feet fall on the padded floor of Dan's home gym. Cora then stood up under her own power and walked, her bony knees trembling, all the way to the hall door.Cora's nightgown was half tucked into the seat of her underpants, but Tess had not made a move to fix it, worried that that would break the spell. Her daughter was on her arm now. They were descending the stairs. Tess held on to the banister, feeling a bit unsteady herself.

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Excerpted from The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst. Copyright © 2017 by C. Morgan Babst. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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