Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hester Young's debut novel keeps you on edge of seat

             Dreams tell tales, most indecipherable. For Charlotte “Charlie” Cates, a mother aching from the loss of her four-year-old child, dreams have become too close to reality, predicting events that come true or are messages from the dead. These dreams lead Charlie out of her self-imposed exile in Connecticut to a plantation in South Louisiana to research a book involving a 30-year-old kidnapping case in “The Gates of Evangeline” by Hester Young.
            At first, Charlie doesn’t want to take the assignment, but then a young child comes to her in a dream and she fears it is Gabriel Deveau, a child stolen from the Evangeline Plantation in 1982 and never found. Researching the case might help her understand why she is having these premonitions so she travels to Louisiana for answers.
What waits at this swamp-infested plantation are just more questions, from the spoiled heiresses and the tortured son and CEO of the family business to the family matriarch dying of cancer. Charlie receives more than she bargained for in a love interest, plus dreams continually plague her, sometimes taking her in other directions. Everything intersects, however, making this a thrilling story with twists and turns that keep you turning pages.
Young does an expert job in crafting a suspenseful tale and her details of South Louisiana appear as if she’s done her homework well. My only complaint is the dialogue of locals told in that annoying broken English, spattered with an occasional French word to remind readers they are Cajun or African America, both so unnecessary and jarring, especially for those of us who know better.
“ ‘Well, now, Shalit,’” one of the character says. “ ‘Ah’d be real careful ramblin’ ‘round at night when yuh dis close to da bayou. Neva know when a cocodrie’s gone go fo’ a ramble of ‘is own.’”
Seriously? Although in defense Young pops up with a good Cajun expression or two that shows me she did visit and attempt to get it right. 
“The Gates of Evangeline” is hailed as the beginning of a new series and I’m anxious to read more, thoroughly enjoyed this story from cover to finish (with the occasional dialogue exception). I’ll bet, however, that if the next one takes place in another part of the country they will leave the accents out.

Punks
Lafayette graphic artist Kody Chamberlain (“Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story”) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (“I, Vampire”) have teamed up to produce a wild ride in “Punks, the Comic,” a new graphic title from Image Comics. Several characters come together in this collage-style story, all based out of a home that happens to be on Vermilion Street in downtown Lafayette. There’s Abe (Lincoln), Fist, Skull and Dog, the latter three with human bodies and heads reflecting their names. Other people show up as well, from Sean Connery to the authors, and the story occasionally pauses for games and cutouts. It’s crazy fun.

Book events
Phil Bildner will read, sign and discuss his children’s book “Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans” at 2 p.m. today at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

Upcoming events
            The Friends of the Lafayette Library will hold its annual Fall Book Sale Wednesday through Saturday, Sept. 9-12, in the Heymann Convention Center Ballroom. On Wednesday, Sept. 9, Friends members may enjoy a members-only night, followed by the public sale Thursday through Saturday.
            Best-selling romance author Diana Rowland will be the keynote speaker of the 2015 Heart of Louisiana (HeartLA) Readers Luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 31, at Juban’s Restaurant, 3739 Perkins Road in Baton Rouge. Registration will open at 11 a.m., with the luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Book signings with more than 18 participating authors will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person. Make checks payable to: Heart of LA RWA c/o Readers Luncheon, P.O. Box 85459, Baton Rouge, LA 70884. Includes your name, email and phone number. Participants may also pay online at www.heartla.com/luncheon-2014/.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.