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C. Morgan Babst Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Floating World (2017) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

C. Morgan Babst is an American author that studied writing at Yale, NOCCA, and New York University. She has had her short fiction and essays appear in journals like Guernica, the Harvard Review, The Oxford American, LitHub, and the New Orleans Review. Best American Essays 2016 featured her piece as a Notable Essay (the piece is called ‘Death is a Way to Be’).

Babst evacuated New Orleans just one day before Hurricane Katrina came onto the land. She lived in New York for eleven years, but right now lives in good old New Orleans along with her loving husband and their beautiful child together. C. Morgan Babst is known for her debut novel, which is titled The Floating World.

This powerful historical fictional novel from C. Morgan Babst debuted to high praise from critics. John Biquenet called the book evocative of the shattered lives that were ‘strewn in the wake of the levee collapses’ and evokes a story that is still difficult to believe, even for those who have lived through it. Kaitlyn Greenidge says that Babst’s writing is “fluid and insidious and hauntingly beautiful”, and that the main family the Boisdores are among some of the great families featured in American fiction. Valerie Martin called the book not only rich and powerful, but eloquent, passionate, wry, and ‘completely memorable’. Jessica Shattuck calls it ‘beautiful and captivating.”

Published in 2017, The Floating World takes readers into a world that exists after the events of Hurricane Katrina. The book is not always focusing on what happened to New Orleans or the hurricane’s aftermath but the people who live in the city and how they are affected by the arrival of the hurricane. The novel is primarily about one family, The Boisdorés, who have lived in New Orleans for generations.

This family has a rich history in the city and can trace their history nearly all the way back to the founding of the city. The family is tied to the city and generations have attempted to leave the area, only to find that they are drawn back. So it seems that their family is tied to New Orleans, for good or bad. When the storm is quickly bearing down on the coast of Louisiana, everyone is evacuating from the city. Cora is the oldest daughter of her family and refuses to evacuate New Orleans.

This causes her family to evacuate without her. Her parents are Joe Boisdoré, a man who works as an artist and became one of the go-to furniture makers in the city. The son of a former freed slave, he is married to his Caucasian wife, Doctor Tess Eshleman. Together they reluctantly evacuate without their daughter with them, as they cannot convince her to leave. However, this sets off a chain of events that no one could have predicted would have the impacts that they have.

Dr. Tess is a psychiatrist and Joe’s father comes with them. He has a type of dementia that he suffers from and was a furniture crafter just like his son. They are forced to leave the area as Cora must brave the storm. Their daughter Del watches news of the storm safely from her home in New York City. But when something happens during Katrina, Cora is trapped in her own head and refuses to tell anyone what it is that she saw.

Meanwhile, Del comes back to New Orleans from New York City to find that not only is her hometown totally in shambles, but her family is alienated from each other. Her parent’s marriage is in a horrible state and Cora is catatonic, having witnessed some type of mysterious violent event that has changed her for the worse. The effects are more than apparent, though. Cora is spending most of her days lying in bed. Not only that but in the middle of the night she leaves the house and wanders around without shoes on through all of the toxic debris and muck left behind by Katrina.

Knowing that her sister and hometown needs her, Del rushes to New Orleans and leaves all of her things in New York City, not thinking about when or if she will return. On the way she has to contend with her parents separating and the blame that they put on each other and themselves for leaving their daughter behind, a decision that left her forever changed. Has this affected their decision to separate, was it the storm, was it how life naturally unfolds? No one knows for sure.

Del arrives and starts trying to figure out what happened to Cora. Along the way, she has to contend with the state of the city left behind in the wake of a horrible tragedy. That and the racial history of the city along with the trauma of what they have been through color the world of New Orleans post-Katrina, where forgotten and helpless citizens were perhaps most affected and least able to contend with what happened next.

Del’s parents feel guilty over what has happened to Cora and they must deal with the tensions and doubts that have broken out between them over different backgrounds, race, and class. As a result Tess stays behind with the girls and Joe moves into the family cabin with his father. Each must deal with their denial and their demons, and the reader gets an inside look at how they are dealing with their emotions. In fact, this novel focuses largely on how people deal with their feelings of grief and more after disasters, both personal and natural in nature.

This Katrina story is a tour de force of emotional fiction, filled with nuanced words and complex emotions. The Boisdoré family must struggle through to survive, and so must the city. Both must rebuild themselves after the destruction, tapping into their hope and resilience to get it done. Pick up this book and see what an interesting read this is for yourself and get a little fictional better understanding of the historic storm that leveled New Orleans in this exciting debut work from C. Morgan Babst.

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