Two mothers and their teenage daughters, whose lives collide in a fatal car crash, take turns narrating Ellen Urbani's breathtaking novel, Landfall, set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Eighteen-year-olds Rose and Rosebud have never met but they share a birth year, a name, and a bloody pair of sneakers. Rose’s quest to atone for the accident that kills Rosebud, a young woman so much like herself but for the color of her skin, unfolds alongside Rosebud’s battle to survive the devastating flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward and to find help for her unstable mother.
These unforgettable characters give voice to the dead of the storm and, in a stunning twist, demonstrate how what we think we know can make us blind to what matters most.
Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Published August 11th 2015 by Forest Avenue Press
Four stars: An emotional, heartbreaking and hopeful book about loss and survival set during the landfall of Hurricane Katrina.
It has been a week since Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, devastating New Orleans. Gertrude and her daughter Rose in Alabama, like many Americans, have watched the disaster unfold live on their television. They feel compelled to help. Gertrude and Rose pack up clothes and supplies in their car and head to donate them. Before they get there, a brief moment of distraction, when Rose puts her feet on the dashboard of the car, causing Gertrude to swerve off a bridge, inadvertently hitting a young woman on foot. Days later, Rose feels compelled to find out the identity of the girl they hit and killed. Little does she know her search will take her across state lines, straight into decimated New Orleans. What will Rose find?
What I Liked:
- Here we are ten years past the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I, like millions of other Americans, recall watching the horror as the disaster unfolded on live tv right in my living room. In Ms. Urbani's carefully researched book, she takes the reader into the heart of the storm, and through the gruesome aftermath. It was a stunning and sobering read as I was forced to recall the terrible events of that week. For anyone who has any interest in Hurricane Katrina, this is a book you need to read. I highly recommend this debut tale by Ms. Urbani.
- The book opens up with with two deaths, leaving young Rose reeling. Once she gets her feet on the ground, Rose is determined to track down the family of the girl she and her mother accidentally killed. Rose must show incredible courage as she traces Rosebud's journey from New Orleans to Alabama. Time and time again, Rose meets kind and generous people, who stopped and helped a stranger in a time of great need. Yes, this is a heartbreaking story, and it is a story that shows both the ugliness and the beauty of humanity, but in the end, it leaves the reader with hope.
- This book moves back and forth in time as it follows both Rose, an eighteen year old white girl, in Alabama on a mission to find a dead girl's relatives, and Rosebud an eighteen year old African American in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina comes ashore. Both girls live in single parent homes, and neither knows their father. Rose's timeline unfolds a few days after Katrina, while Rosebud's timeline takes the reader through the storm and the terrifying aftermath. I enjoyed both view points, but in all honesty, I was riveted by Rosebud's narrative.
- Through Rosebud's eye, the reader rides out the hurricane, and just when the residents of New Orleans are breathing a sigh of relief, the levees break without warning, completely flooding the Lower Ninth Ward where young Rosebud lives. Rosebud and her mother run for their lives and seek shelter, only to spend three days watching the water rise higher and higher into the attic. Rosebud soon finds herself in the Superdome, a hell on earth. With each and every step of her journey, Rosebud encounters the terror and struggles that the people endured in New Orleans. I was completely fascinated and riveted by Rosebud's account of Hurricane Katrina and the appalling circumstances that followed. Again,this is a must read for anyone who wants to know more about America's most costly and devastating natural disaster to date.
- This story isn't easy to read at times, and it is incredibly sad since the reader knows from the first pages that two people from the two different mother daughter pairs don't survive. Then the reader experiences the anguish and terror inflicted upon the survivors, especially when a few bad apples caused Americans to turn against the weary, who so desperately needed help. Yet, amidst all the destruction and death, hope blooms with a few kindnesses shown by complete strangers, who help both girls on their journeys.
- One of the main focuses of the story is on the mother daughter relationships. Each girl comes from a single parent home, and both must overcome adversity. I found it interesting to see how each girl viewed her mother, and how their relationships fared.
- Even though the book ended abruptly, it ended in a good place, leaving the reader with hope.
- I appreciated that in the author's note, Ms. Urbani discusses her research and some of the events that occurred after the storm. Definitely take time to read the author's note.
And The Not So Much:
- After all the struggles and sadness, I liked that the book ended on a high note, but I was left wanting to know more, and I still had some unanswered questions. I wish that there was an Epilogue or another chapter a year or so down the road, I would have loved to see how the women left behind put the pieces back together. I also wished that the author had touched upon the recovery of New Orleans.
- There is a bit of a twist at the end, but for me, it wasn't a surprise at all, I could see it coming early on. I liked the surprise, but it also ended up being a little bit of a stretch.
- There were several unanswered questions at the end, such as why did Roger commit suicide? What happened to Rosebud after she left the hospital on that final stretch of her journey? Why did Rose never have any contact with her father's family? Finally, what happened to the two survivors down the road? I would also love to know more about Jennifer, the florist.
- Two of the four women die right away in the first chapters. I hated knowing as I followed one person's journey, that she would ultimately meet her death. I don't know if it would be worse to have it hit you unexpectedly or knowing all along that no matter how hard she fights, she will still not make it. A conundrum indeed.
Landfall was a riveting read. This is a book that takes you through the deadly winds of Hurricane Katrina, the subsequent flood to the squalid conditions of the Superdome. This is a fascinating, emotional and heartbreaking story about two young woman in two different states whose lives finally intersect. I highly enjoyed this read, and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in learning more about Hurricane Katrina.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.