"A remarkably sure-footed and rich first novel, admirable not only for the clarity of its voice and the fluidity of its style but for the coherence of its vision; its dramatic family saga, gradually unfolding in a deftly integrated Cajun universe, reveals the narrator to be a complex and acrobatic survivor. Pousson brings remarkable insight and literary power to the landscape of the American novel." (Lis Harris, author of Rules of Engagement)
Nita is sixteen, working in a diner, putting up with the coarse advances of her stepfather, and living on the edge of Jennings, Louisiana, when her brother sets her up on a blind date with Louis Toussaint. He is rude and cheap, Nita thinks, not exactly what she has in mind. But when he offers an engagement ring, Nita accepts what she believes is her ticket out of the place, the life she already feels is stifling her. She deserves better, and Louis can give it to her, if only he will work hard enough.
So begins a relentless cycle of expectation and disappointment that reaches its destructive zenith when two children are born and become the focus of Nita's fiercest hopes and most damaging desires. Her affection becomes a prison her son cannot escape, even as she denies her daughter. Soon Nita's incessant demands, seething prejudices, and unpredictable rage drive her family to the precipice, and over.
No Place, Louisiana is an unflinching vision of family relationships pushed to the breaking point, which Martin Pousson conveys with a rare empathy and understanding. Its exploration of themes deeply rooted in Southern fiction, and its ability to peer into the secret hearts of its misfit characters invite comparison to the works of Dorothy Allison and Carson McCullers.
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Martin Pousson was born and raised in Acadiana in Louisiana bayou land. He teaches in the writing program at Rutgers University. This is his first novel.From Publishers Weekly :
Louisiana-born Pousson debuts with a tightly wound novel about a claustrophobic Cajun marriage. Life in Jennings, La., is no bowl of jambalaya for 16-year-old part-time waitress Nita Morrow when she meets Louis Toussaint on a blind date. Looking to escape her groping stepfather and dead-end existence, Nita marries crude, cheap, car-crazy Louis only to find that her ticket out of town leads to another small town. Nita and Louis make a life together, but not one where he can be the domestic king he imagines or she can even be satisfied. Over the years, Nita succumbs neither to her disapproving mother-in-law nor to her husband's outbursts of machismo. Yearning for something more, she moves her family to successively bigger homes in better neighborhoods. Both husband and wife learn to focus their hopes for the future on their two children, while anger and disappointment with their own lives fester until the inevitable tragedy occurs. Southern family dysfunction is certainly not a new theme, nor is the failure of material wealth to make up for psychological deprivation. Pousson updates these situations with crisp technical adeptness by recounting his story both from Nita's perspective and from Louis's: the date, the wedding, the wedding night, the years that follow. Both husband and wife miss opportunities to deal effectively with feelings or the problems that undermine their happiness, and each injures the other intentionally and unintentionally. Pousson's portrait of discontent is made up of piercing vignettes and Louisiana-inflected dialogue. Setting out to capture the modern South, the first-time novelist confidently eschews the style of a Faulkner or the charm of a McCullers to evoke the prejudices and limitations of Cajun culture in its unique, enriching and destructive complexity. (Mar. 18)Forecast: Fans of Richard Ford and Larry Brown will respond to Pousson's dark perspective and adept prose.
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