Babylon Rolling

I spent much of the time while reading Amanda Boyden's Babylon Rolling wondering if I liked it. Boyden can write. She's the kind of writer that makes you slow down and really pay attention. You can't rush through her novels. Every paragraph is significant. Every character is distinct.

Babylon rolling is a novel of pre-Katrina New Orleans. As you meet with the characters that live on an Uptown block your mind starts to process and wonder what role they will all play. The unhappy couple that is new to the area, the wife that wants her husband to die, the young gang member, the old lady - how will their lives intersect and overlap. Their connection goes beyond just where they live. You just can't figure out how. Then an incident happens on Cerise's lawn shortly before Ivan. It creates a shift in neighbourhood dynamics and the results ripple through the characters.

The blurb on the cover mentions that incident as the incident of the book. It happens early and you'll spend much of the book wondering why. It's like a piece of start off slowly and then something happens. The tempo changes. The crescendo has started. The music builds, builds, builds, builds and builds until it can't build anymore and comes crashing down in a giant wave of noise and chaos. But through the chaos there's still a melody that is squeaking its way through. The melody will lead you out.

That is Babylon Rolling.

I'll confess that when I started it I read the first page after the prologue and seriously considered putting it down. It starts off with Fearius and he is hard to read. Here's the first couple of sentences:
Fearius stare from the car at Stumps Grocery and Liquor. Painted on the siding: Package meat Fried rice Cold drinks. He might could drink a strawberry cold drink. Orange. Fearius like cold drinks better than malt liqour when they smokin the hydroponic, but Alphonese be inside Stumps for Colt 40s, and Fearius, his bankroll thin as a spliff now. Thin as quarters and a dime thin. Juvey dont pay, dont he know. (p.5)

Now, if there hadn't been a prologue and I hadn't read Boyden's first novel I probably would have put the book down. I could not have handled too many pages in a row of Fearius (thankfully his sections tended to be on the short side). But I stuck with it. I stuck with it when I wasn't sure if I liked it. I stuck with it because I had no bloody clue where Boyden was going but I knew that I wanted to find out.

Amanda Boyden is an exceptional writer. Her first novel, Pretty, Little, Dirty, was raw and penetrating. This novel, in its own way, is a tribute to New Orleans. If you haven't read Boyden add her to your must read list. Place her at the top of your TBR pile. She'll take you on an exceptionally well written ride.