I grew up in South Louisiana on the Mississippi River just across the Atchafalaya from Rheta Johnson’s beloved village of Henderson. My father had a fish camp a 30 minute boat ride out into the swamp with no electricity, no running water and lots of mosquitoes. Yes, my mother did actually visit it once right after it was built, and swore, “Never again.” While our side of the swamp was more industrialized and educated and (we thought) civilized, I grew up with people like those in Johnson’s book—big-hearted, hard-working, hard-partying Cajuns. I was one of them.
That’s why reading this book was a bittersweet exercise in memory for me. Johnson loves the swamp and its people, but she makes no attempt to hide the twentieth century problems that plague the bayou country in the twenty-first century. She dwells on the joie de vivre, but doesn’t ignore the pollution, drug abuse, poverty and crime that has shaken the swamp no less than the rest of the country.
Another blogger has written an excellent and impartial review, which you can read on her blog, Maggie Reads (which is well worth your time to follow, btw).