Through it all, our fifteen-year-old, first-person heroine, Esch, reads of Medea in her mythology text and compares the boy she loves (and who has made her pregnant) to Jason. And it is an apt comparison, for he is duplicitous and dismissive – not father material. Father material does abound in the other male characters here: Esch’s Daddy, her oldest brother Randall, and Randall’s friend Big Henry, are all portrayed as worthy stalwarts, and each has Esch’s welfare foremost in his heart. This fact illustrates one of Ms. Ward’s great strengths: she populates her novel with balanced, nuanced characters – she then presses these characters into the epic natural disaster of Katrina.
Ms. Ward has accomplished something so human and endearing – I’ve seen this novel described as “big-hearted,” and that’s exactly right. Also, there is an inevitability here, by which we know the storm is bearing down on our family, but the end poses a fine counterpoint to the personal and national disaster we encounter. And Ms. Ward has set it up brilliantly, so that no action is inconsistent with the novel’s characters.
A reverberating, thought-provoking debut, this, with memorable characters and scenes. Take it up and marvel at an important new voice.