Today I like: The Adventures of Tin Tin
Not so much: Winter breaks that never end
Today I’m reviewing Little Gale Gumbo, the debut novel by the fabulous Erika Marks, who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know through the Twitter writing community. Here’s a summary of this fun and page-turning read:
Camille Bergeron left her native New Orleans for the shores of Little Gale, an island off the coast of Maine. She brought along her two teenage daughters, Dahlia and Josie, and hoped to leave her abusive husband behind. When the Bergerons meet divorcee Ben Haskell and his teenage son, Matthew, it seems they might have a chance at a fresh start, and maybe even a new family. The Bergerons and Haskells open the Little Gale Gumbo Café , and soon the suspicious islanders are drawn in by Camille’s colorful food…and her daughters’ more colorful personalities.
Years later, Camille and Josie are still running the Café, all the while holding onto old loves and family secrets. When their violent father’s sudden reemergence puts Ben’s life in danger, Dahlia and Josie are forced to confront the past and figure out what to do with their shared future.
So, I was really excited to read Erika’s book. Colorful, outlandish New Orleans Creole meets stiff-lipped Yankee island fishing village? I loved the idea of a collision between two such unique American cultures, and Erika does a wonderful job bringing both settings to life. Her New Orleans is bourbon-soaked humidity and spice, her Maine island is gray and quaint and insularly chilly, in both the literal and figurative sense. The characters, as well, from wild Dahlia to practical Josie, are pleasantly flawed yet retain their likability. Even as Dahlia makes a mess of her own life, and Josie rationalizes the betrayal of the one man she really loves, you don’t doubt their inherently worthy intentions.
Erika weaves the relationships between the characters masterfully…everyone is somehow connected to everyone else, as is always the truth in a small town. The plot zips along with one question leading to another. In the case of Little Gale Gumbo, I think the title is a great metaphor for the story: a stew of characters, problems…loves and mysteries, all mixed together to form a wonderfully flavorful story.
Congrats, Erika, on a great debut!
Little Gale Gumbo was published by NAL/Penguin in 2011. Erika is a native of Maine, and her husband is a native of New Orleans. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and two daughters. Erika is a featured novelist on The Debutante Ball, a website that showcases promising debut novelists. You can learn more about Erika and her writing on her website or follow her on twitter at @erikamarksauthr.