Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review - Aftermath Lounge by Margaret McMullan

Aftermath Lounge by Margaret McMullan

From the author's website:

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed 95% of the small coastal town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. With a 28-foot storm surge, the highest recorded in U.S. history, 55-foot waves, and winds reaching 120 mph, the town was wiped off the map—temporarily.
Award-winning author Margaret McMullan saw the destruction firsthand. Her family’s historic Gulf Coast home—her father’s beloved southern jewel—was one of the houses in Pass Christian devastated by Katrina. Despite the chaos immediately following the storm, McMullan’s family was among the first to rebuild and donated to the Red Cross, the Pass Christian fire station, and the Pass Christian library.

During this time, McMullan witnessed small acts of heroism that inspired her to write about the community and its people, and how tragedy shapes our character. In 2010, she was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship to complete the project.
Born in part out of her family’s deep connection to the community, Aftermath Lounge: A Novel in Stories (April 2015, Calypso Editions) releases at the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and comprises fictional vignettes about the people of Pass Christian in the storm’s wake. The stories are connected by a setting near to the author’s heart—the McMullans’ home, which was originally constructed in 1845 and restored by her father numerous times over the years.

Aftermath Lounge is a compelling tribute to the Gulf Coast and resurrects the place and its people alongside their heartaches and triumphs. It is a riveting mosaic that feeds our desire to understand what it means to be alive in this day and age.

I can't believe it's been 10 years. I decided to participate in this book blog tour as I hope this will shed some light because you don't hear much about it anymore in the media... I googled some Pass Christian, Mississippi images (see here) since I don't recall hearing much about this town (most articles I remembered were of New Orleans, especially about the hospitals since I work in healthcare.) I can't even begin to imagine what the people had to go through - during or after.

At first I thought these were short stories on different individuals - they were, but some characters reappeared and so the stories intertwined so it was nice to have some closure on what happened to them. Unlike most fiction I am used to reading with a big reveal (I typically read murder/mystery, though occasionally I dabble into other genre.), there was a quietness about the book. I suppose this book was about ordinary people who went through extraordinary circumstances. Just like real life, there were sadness, confusion, wisdom and hopefulness in the stories. There might not be a big climax, but the stories were realistic.

The book was only 140 pages long so the stories were concise. It gave us a snapshot of these resilient people. Though I yearned to know more about some of the characters, in particular, Teddy, the serious little boy who was mature beyond his age. One question I kept asking myself after finishing the book was - if I lived there, would I have gone back to rebuild? I don't know the answer to that, but I applaud those who did. It's not easy to go back, and overcome such a devastating past.

Note - I received a free copy from PR By The Book as part of a book tour in exchange for an unbiased review

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