DEEP IN THE SHADE OF PARADISE

John Dufresne, Author . Norton $26.95 (364p) ISBN 978-0-393-02020-5

Imagining John Irving, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor or Max Shulman (or all of the above at once) on peyote juice only begins to evoke the dimension and energy of the seriocomic fantasies of Dufresne at his freewheeling, frenetic best. In his latest, a sequel (of sorts) to his 1994 debut novel Louisiana Power & Light, this talented writer creates rambunctious fun tinged with melancholy as he revisits the oddball and grotesque characters and exotic trailer park and plantation landscapes of the Louisiana bayous and byways. Conceived the day his daddy Billy Wayne died in 1988, Boudou Fontana (short for Bergeron Boudeleaux deBastrop) has an eidetic memory and the knowledge that he's the last of the Fontana line. His mother, hillbilly songwriter Earlene deBastrop Fontana, is a cousin of Grisham Loudermilk, who is marrying Ariane Thevenot at Paradise, the family plantation in Shiver-de-Freeze (chival de frise), a small political subdivision outside Monroe, La. Grisham, seeking one last carnal fling of bachelorhood, engages in a boozy, lusty coupling with nomadic, free-spirited Miranda Ferry, who then hitches up her Airstream trailer bound for destinations unknown, but only gets as far as the town park near Paradise. Meanwhile, Earlene's cousin Adlai Birdsong, 21 and still living with and cooking for his mother, Benning, and Alzheimer's-stricken father, Royce, is starved for love. Ariane, resenting Grisham's cavalier behavior, slips into Adlai's bed, and chaos erupts. Other over-the-top characters include a priest who—enamored of Ariane's mother—is having second thoughts about celibacy, a pair of Siamese twin girls (actually one body with two heads) who take a shine to Boudou and a veritable menagerie of other outré bayou denizens. Memory, fidelity and destiny are paramount themes as Dufresne sheds warm light on the caprices of the heart and mind. The all-out quirkiness of Dufresne's sparkling second novel may put some readers off, but others will surely think this talented writer's time has come. 13-city author tour. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-0-393-33114-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-452-28406-7
Open Ebook - 364 pages - 978-0-393-28580-2
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