The Floating World

Hurricane Katrina serves as a backdrop for the separation and upheaval affecting each member of the Boisdoré family. Tess and Joe's marriage, already frayed from the burden of long-buried and unspoken economic class and racial differences, becomes more tenuous after the couple evacuates New Orleans without their daughter Cora, who has gone missing. Suspecting that Cora may have been the victim of--or participated in--a crime during the storm, Tess and Joe's guilt and anger with each other intensifies. Meanwhile, the vagaries of dementia cause Joe's father, Vincent, to disappear frequently from his remote cabin, and another daughter, Del, returns from New York to help find Cora while attempting to escape her own mistakes.

The Floating World begins on the 47th day after Hurricane Katrina's landfall and is told in flashbacks from the perspective of each family member to provide some--but not all--answers surrounding the reasons for Cora's disappearance. With a gripping yet deliberate narrative infused with vivid descriptions, C. Morgan Babst takes her time with this story, allowing it to build slowly and methodically with an appropriate weight, enhancing the confusion wrought by the storm. In contrast, Cora's point of view significantly intensifies the pace, lending an urgency to the novel and making her narrative feel almost cyclonic.

A native of New Orleans who evacuated one day before Hurricane Katrina, Babst has an intimate understanding and knowledge of the region's people and rich culture, its topography and the complex forces of race and class. The result is a timely debut about the power of nature and its omnipresent potential for destruction in every aspect of our lives. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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