How Much Fun Was That

LITTLE GALE GUMBO. 2 glasses of wine. Some chips and cheese. The perfect evening.

This wonderful book arrived on my doorstep Friday afternoon and I savored it all weekend, turning the last page last night just before turning out the bedside light.

I’m pretty sure the last time I got this caught up in a really well-written family saga must have been THE SHELL SEEKERS, which I read earlier this summer.  An older book (which I eventually realized I’d read before, long long ago) I was so caught up in the yarn of the story, the charming characters (strong women), the smooth shifts back and forth in time, and the mysteries to be solved, it was hard to put it down.  I was sad to see THE SHELL SEEKERS end.

I felt the same way about LITTLE GALE GUMBO.  What a pleasure it was.  Truly.  I hated to turn that last page, and I’m already wondering about a possible sequel?

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From a writer’s perspective, here’s an additional list of some things I appreciated about Erika’s work:

1.  The multi-sensory experience.  I could feel the bitter cold and the fog of a Maine island winter; I could smell the melting butter and sugar of every Praline; I tasted the gumbo and the red beans and rice, right down to their textures; I could hear the sisters voices so clearly – the headstrong (but underneath fragile) Dahlia, the sweetness and let’s-just-make-it-all-better heartbreak in Josie, Camille’s steady strength.

2.  The complexity.  The story is complex — all those romances and mysteries — but you never feel that way reading it.  There were so many times when I marveled at how well this story flowed, and I especially loved how much the author trusted her reader.  She knew when to give just enough information to let me figure things out for myself.

3.  Time sequencing.  For all of us who try to do it, we know how hard it is to make it flow naturally.  Erika made me feel like she was sitting on the porch, with no notes, telling me a story.  That’s how smooth it was.

4.  Sense of place and real characters.  I could feel what it might be like to be a girl in New Orleans, a girl sheltered from The Quarter and schooled in the arts of Creole cooking and voodoo.  I wanted to be the young Camille.  And the way they move to Maine (and how Maine is ‘chosen’) was so clever, but also perfectly in line with what the now-world-wise Camille would do.

5.  Elements of surprise.  I was pleasantly surprised many times by this story, so many secrets and happenings — which I can’t list because I don’t want to give them away! — which unfolded in unexpected ways that, after the fact, made perfect sense.  It’s hard to surprise a reader who’s trying to puzzle out what’s coming, but Erika pulled it off so well.

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This would be a perfect book club choice.  I can see a group of women serving up the recipes in the book on a cold winter night, glasses of wine in hand, discussing the trials and pleasures of the Bergeron women.  I’m a little afraid to try the Pralines, but I’d be willing to give them a shot.  Plus, I’m always looking for just the right opportunity to say the word etouffee.  Doesn’t that just sound delicious?

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17 thoughts on “How Much Fun Was That

  1. Downith

    I loved it too Teri. And you neatly summarized what I liked and admired as well. My only complaint was the lack of that gorgeous cover on my Kindle.

      1. Downith

        Gin and tonic. Ice and lemon.
        If I wasn’t supposed to get some sleep on the flight back tomorrow night, I’d read it again! So proud to know you Erika.

  2. erikamarks

    Oh, Teri. I can’t tell you–scratch that, yes I can!–how much your reading the novel and your thoughtful comments mean to me, as a writer, but more importantly, as a friend.

    1. Teri

      It really was a great fun read, Erika. If it was just okay, I could have said some nice enough things to get by … you know what I mean. But I truly loved reading this story and I want everybody else to read it too.

  3. Averil Dean

    I just started it today, in a doctor’s waiting room. Then in the exam room while I waited again (and was irritated when he finally showed up–can’t he see I’m reading?). I took it out to my car and read for another 10 minutes until I realized I was late for lunch with my mom.

    It’s wonderful to hear your voice in this, Erika. So smooth. I’ll be smuggling this little baby for peeks under my desk at work tomorrow.

  4. macdougalstreetbaby

    I’m on Chapter five and have to agree with everyone here. I’m really loving it. I can’t wait to go snuggle up with it tonight.

    1. Teri

      Hi Paul, I was just over your way and see your book is set in Missouri — hello from the girl who grew up across the state in Cape Girardeau.

      Ah, The Shell Seekers. Some books are just plain old fun to get lost in. This is one of them. I’m now 70 pages into THE ART OF FIELDING and, as much as I really do love sports, the baseball-ness of it is wearing on me. But I refuse to quit. I’m hopeful.

  5. Natalia Sylvester

    Etouffee really does sound delicious, Teri! I love that you shared how you enjoyed the book from both a reader and writer’s perspective. I think writers read differently, and there’s been times when I’ve enjoyed a book so much I’ve just wanted to start it over as soon as it ended, so I can dissect how the author accomplished such a thing.

    Thanks also for sharing my interview with Erika!

  6. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    On order. One for me, and one for my mother. Have been anticipating it for months…

    I debated between an e-version or a printed copy for myself, but went for the hard stuff. Because, Erika: You need to make it to the Midwest, so I can get this signed.

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