26 August 2009

A Rave for Gumbo Tales

All that talk about "recognition" in the last couple of posts didn't put my contemplation of the concept to sleep. I walked with it for a few days. No surprise then that Sara Roahen's book jumped off the shelf into my arms when I stopped by the library to return a CD. How to resist the subtitle: Finding my place at the New Orleans table"?

What a beautiful book! Even the cover reflects warmth and whimsy and affection. I expected an introspective confessional of a post-Katrina transplant, the book is instead a "heartfelt, quietly passionate book" by a woman who " may not be a child of New Orleans, but by the end of Gumbo Tales one can't help thinking she's an adopted daughter." (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)

I took the book with me on my trip to New England (more on events of that journey in later blogging...). I read at every possible opportunity for the irresistible "fix" I enjoyed. The book stirred me emotionally. As I read I was falling in love with Sara Roahen, wishing I was Sara Roahen, missing New Orleans, discovering and re-discovering New Orleans --- and, in the end, getting my heart broken (Ms Roahen doesn't live here any more; meeting her was the #1 item on my To-Do-When-I-Get-Home list.

She mentions Sazeracs early in the book. I was still in New Orleans when I reached that discussion; sitting in the lobby of the Embassy Suites waiting on a CouchSurf guest, an exceptionally convenient location that day because the bartender there mixes an enchanting specimen. I sipped and kept reading.

Roahen is honest and good-humored and courageous. I felt myself surrendering (even further) to New Orleans; whatever resistance remained to giving my whole heart to this city vanished as I read.


The conference was a deeply inspiring seven-day sojourn, on a rock surrounded by water. An island adventure. Reading on the island, I felt the great geographic distance between "here" and "home." There were moments of "The Earth is my home" over the week I was there, but the book evoked increasingly intense feelings of "There's no place like home." A trumpter played during evening chapel the third or fourth night. He was good. We talked afterward and I learned he'd just returned from his fourth trip this year to New Orleans. He loves New Orleans. I told him hearing that kind of music--solo trumpet after sunset, a picante crooned "Amazing Grace" against the hiss of ocean waves gently slapping the rocky shore--provoked a beautiful homesickness. I thanked him.

I still had two more days away from NO the night I finished the book. The morning immediately following I felt like I'd said goodbye to a friend.

I was away from phone and Internet for almost two weeks. The studio was of course closed. So my plate is full now playing catch-up, a hundred tasks and responsibilities needing attention. Probably a good thing not to be obsessed with a book right now.

But I will find an address for Sara and drop her a line. It's such an honor to read good writing.

1 comment:

What do you feel about what you just read?