cover image Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields

Mark LaFlaur. Mid-City, $14.95 paper (412p) ISBN 978-0615729862

Life in the Weems family of 1999 New Orleans is anything but Elysian in this engrossing Southern Gothic snapshot. As Simpson ponders whether to kill his brother Bartholomew, he reflects upon their upbringing with mother Melba. At age 36, Simpson works in a copy shop, but fantasizes of escaping to San Francisco and being a famous poet. The obstacle is Bartholomew%E2%80%94as a second grader, he spent a year in a psychiatric ward%E2%80%94who is presented vividly as possibly autistic and "laced with idiot savantism." LaFlaur deftly alternates between character perspectives, delving into perceptions and motivations. If a healthy dose of odd events infuses the narrative with a slapstick tone in parts, Melba's assurance that family is all you have at the end of the day acquires a kind of bittersweet truth. The apparent reconciliation of the brothers after Melba's death may seem a syrupy aftermath to their conflict, but Simpson's perception of haunted New Orleans hammers home%C2%A0LaFlaur's implication that life consists mostly of dealing with your ghosts. Despite the book's drawn out development, readers will find the author's portrayal of New Orleans convincing and his characters fascinating and fully developed.%C2%A0