A missing child, a buried tin of coins, and a terrible secret - these lie at the heart of Muriel Macleod's powerful first novel set deep in the back country of early-20th-century Louisiana, where lawlessness still reigns and the voodoo curses and charms of the old ways hold sway. Here eight-year-old Arletta lives with her family in an isolated shack in the woods. Sometimes she sees the white men walking down the track toward her home and knows to hide. But sometimes she sees them too late, until one day she finds the strength to fight back with ferocity. The men don't return. But when years later she hears that another girl has been attacked, and past meets present, Arletta is compelled to act, plotting a revenge that will leave its mark on history.
He's a bad man.
I scrub myself clean after he's gone. The water is shivering cold. He says my feet feel soft like a baby's, but blood flows from where I scraped them raw on the slab beneath the pipe.
That's Mambo. She can scream. I'm gonna get thwacked for sure. As if I ain't sore enough.
'Arletta, feed them chickens, and feed them good. Arletta, what the hell ya doing? Don't go washing ya hair in the evening time girl, that's how ya get chilled all the time and what do I get? A poorly child!'
'How many times I tell ya girl?'
'All times, Mambo.'
'Well, one of them times it gonna be real fine if you just do as ya told. Go on now. Feed them chickens and then get y'self right on o! to bed. Ya hearing me, Arletta?'
'And come on in here, so I can dry that hair. Come on now.' Mambo's fresh home ...
The ultimate message that Macleod imparts is that no matter how hard your life gets, no matter who might stand in your way, no matter what you have to face day after day, there’s still a chance to rise above it all and be who you want to be. Arletta rises. It’s a powerful message, and could be a tonic for those who need it.
(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).
Full Review (766 words).
In Venice, Italy, where it is believed he was from, he was Marco Litche, a trader. In America, he became Marc Eliche. In 1794, a broken wagon wheel stranded him 62 miles north of Lafayette. But the environment was nice, and so were the Avoyels, a small Native American tribe that lived there; also he was a trader, so there was business to be done. He established a trading post, married Julie Carmouche of Point Coupee Parish in 1796, and secured Spanish land grants. (Spain owned Louisiana from 1762-1802 but was mostly a benign and absent "landlord". Although it only owned Louisiana for a short time many defining characteristics of Louisiana's architecture, such as buildings in the French Quarter of New Orleans, are Spanish constructions.) ...
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