Elise Blackwell in person, I am happy to call her friend. I'm also happy to call her one of the finest voices in American Literature as well. Her voice is clearly her own and when you read her words, you become a part of her world and the emotions carried out by her characters. I was introduced to her writing by reading the book Hunger; when I finished it, I purchased many copies to give to my friends. I remember telling everyone, "Don't question, just read it." I waited for a long time before reading her newest book, The Lower Quarter, and suffice to say that it was worth the wait. With cover photo by Louis Maistros, The Lower Quarter was simply an exquisite return journey to a city I know and love so well. I even read the book while in New Orleans - like that's a shocker.
The story is thus: New Orleans after Katrina. People have returned home to salvage what they can and to move forward with their lives with what little (or more) they have. Within the city are four people - Johanna, Eli, Marion, and Clay - whose lives were not only affected by the storm, but also by the discovery of a body in a hotel room. Eli is a former art thief who has been hired to locate a stolen painting in New Orleans. He meets the enigmatic Johanna, an art restorer, who may or may have known the deceased. The two ultimately become lovers, yet her ex-husband Clay, a soft spoken man with strange appetites and harsh inner walls, remains to be an enigmatic influence in her life. However, Clay meets and becomes somewhat lovers with Marion, a free spirited and broken artist, and the walls begin to crumble, revealing secrets thought buried long ago.
Even if you've never visited My Second Home, The Lower Quarter will take you by the hand, offer you a muffaletta, and tell you welcome. No one is a stranger for long in New Orleans and may the gods have mercy if you find yourself falling under the city's spell. The Lower Quarter shows yet another side of New Orleans through the people who live and visit there - those who love and are saddened by her. Blackwell writes with a flair and style that makes her, as I stated earlier, a fine voice of American Literature. The Lower Quarter is a book to visit again and again because Blackwell's imagination is so inviting and fluid.
Thanks again, Elise. I hope that one day, we'll meet up in My Second Home and have lunch.