The Next Step in the Dance

Tim Gautreaux, Author Picador USA $23 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-18143-7
With an unblinking, cinematographer's eye, Gautreaux captures the southwest Louisiana landscape--mud, snakes, roadside garbage, cinderblock slabs, bourree games and all--in this warm, funny first novel. Paul and Colette Thibordeaux are in their early 20s, living on Tiger Island on the brink of the 1980s oil bust. A fix-all machinist who can do 12 variations of jitterbug, Paul is not ambitious enough for bank teller Colette. Thinking that Paul goes too far with other dance partners and wanting to ""examine at least one other place in the world,"" Colette leaves for California. Paul follows her, and the mishaps begin. Sexual harassment, falsification of papers and other instances of West Coast-style ethics send the Cajun couple back home to more setbacks: pregnancy, divorce, unemployment. The struggle for solvency sets in motion a sequence of breath-stopping misadventures, from Paul's near-death trapped in the boiler of a below-code waste-processing plant to his disappearance on a shrimp trawler in a storm. Gautreaux shows the same affectionate humor (and fascination with machinery) that enriched his short-story collection, Same Place, Same Things. His mastery of the vignette makes for a rhythm of action-packed crises and resolutions that flirts with the picaresque. It never quite surrenders, though: all the semi-happy endings build, fortunately, to a happy one. Author tour. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-19936-4
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4668-3392-0
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