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Summary and book reviews of The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst

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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About this Book

Book Summary

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief.

The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans. Though the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora, the family's fragile elder daughter, refuses to leave the city, forcing her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave who became one of the city's preeminent furniture makers, and his white "Uptown" wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic - the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.

This mystery is at the center of C. Morgan Babst's haunting, lyrical novel. Cora's sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the life she has tried to build in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city, and the trauma of destruction that was not, in fact, some random act of God, but an avoidable tragedy visited upon New Orleans's most helpless and forgotten citizens.

The Floating World is the Katrina story that needed to be told - one with a piercing, unforgettable loveliness and a nuanced understanding of this particular place and its tangled past, written by a New Orleans native who herself says that after Katrina, "if you were blind, suddenly you saw."

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The hurricane is an effective backdrop and metaphor for life's smaller tragedies as experienced by the Boisdoré family, the dissolution of a marriage, a parent's slow drift into dementia, the inability to protect a loved one who is seemingly too fragile for the capricious world. If this all sounds astonishingly bleak, it is. Babst really piles on the human misery, and for some readers it will be too much. There is no "happy" ending for these characters, at least not now, but there could be, and that's left to the reader to imagine. The fact that they go on, that they endure, is something...continued

Full Review (709 words).

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Marie Claire
This is a spot-on examination of race and the tumult natural disasters leave in their wake.

Publishers Weekly
Despite a discordant ending, this is a riveting novel about the inescapable pull of family.

Booklist
Waving through time in chapters labeled with the number of days before or after Katrina's landfall, Babst's debut will appropriately unmoor readers, too.

Library Journal
Starred Review. A richly written, soak-in-it kind of book...utterly affecting.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. [A] powerful, important novel…Deeply felt and beautifully written; a major addition to the literature of Katrina.

Author Blurb Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman
This book is an achingly precise diagram of a city and family in heartbreak. Babst's writing is fluid and insidious and hauntingly beautiful. The Boisdorés join some of the great families of American fiction, fascinating kinfolk through whom we watch the rise and fall and rise of New Orleans.

Author Blurb Helen Phillips, author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat
In The Floating World, C. Morgan Babst masterfully, hauntingly, evokes the devastated and devastating landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans with images that are at once surreal and painfully real.

Author Blurb Valerie Martin, author of Property and The Ghost of Mary Celeste
This is a rich and powerful novel, satisfying on many levels - wry, eloquent, passionate, and completely memorable.

Author Blurb John Biguenet, author of The Rising Water Trilogy
In powerfully lyrical prose, Morgan Babst evokes the shattered lives strewn in the wake of the levee collapses that left New Orleans in ruins. It's a story still difficult to believe - even by those of us who lived through it.

Author Blurb Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Steve Jobs
This powerful and lyrical novel captures the emotional currents in New Orleans after Katrina. With an authentic and sensitive voice, Morgan Babst explores family, race, class, and the essence of disruption.

Author Blurb Jessica Shattuck, NYT bestselling author of The Women in the Castle
The Floating World is a thought-provoking story of class and race and trauma, told through the dramatic prism of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Babst's sentences are so fresh and alive they leap off the page. This is a beautiful and captivating book.

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Beyond the Book

Hurricane Katrina's Racial Implications

New Orleans was, and is, a city with a majority African-American population (nearly 67% in 2005), and the racial implications of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina have come to define the way many people think of the storm. 68% of the storm's nearly 700 victims were black, as were an overwhelming number of those whose homes were destroyed and who sought refuge in the Superdome shortly after the storm made landfall. The areas most susceptible to flooding were (and are still) largely populated by poor African Americans, as was the case with one of the hardest hit neighborhoods, the Lower Ninth Ward. Many residents were unable to evacuate in advance of the storm due to a lack of financial resources, and because traffic out of the ...

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