#62 The Next Step in the Dance by Tim Gatreaux. My book group read his 2nd collection of short stories, Welding With Children (how can you not like a book with that name????), last year or the year before. He has another collection of short stories, Same Places, Same Things, which I also read and enjoyed.
The Next Step is Gatreaux's first novel. Gatreaux writes mostly about Louisiana and its denizens, rich and poor. The novel is set in Tiger Island, LA, right before the oil crash of the mid 1980's.
It's about a young couple--Colette and Paul Thibodeaux. Paul is happy with his small town life, working as a machinist and dancing with his wife (and anyone else who'll dance) at the honky-tonks on weekends. He loves the web of family--his mama and daddy and gran-pere. Colette wants more than the dusty town and the small life she thinks she's living. So she ups and runs away to California.
Paul follows her--and they both have a measure of financial success in the "big city". But there is no perfect life to run away to, and a series of incidents land them back in Tiger Island during the hardest financial times possible. The struggle just to survive teaches them lessons that bring them back to one another.
This novel was good, but almost too hard for me to read. PapaC and I lost darn near everything in the oil crash. But the moral of the story--that it is love and family that is what is important rings true in the novel and in my life.
One of the things Gatreaux captures so brilliantly is the difference between Louisiana and Texas. Weather. Food. Religion. Music. It all rings perfectly true to this Texan.
Two thumbs up here.
I'm now reading Gatreaux's second novel, The Clearing.