It is 1955, and the three Fayette sisters have lived their whole lives in the enchanting French Quarter of New Orleans. Though neglected by their parents, they share a close bond with one another–from afternoons in their small, shared bedroom, to trying to speak with ghosts beneath the sweeping trees in their garden. When the middle sister Constance disappears, the family believes she has run away, as she has done before; it is only the youngest–thirteen-year-old Bonavere (known as Bonnie)–who suspects there is more to it. Met only with grief from her family and resistance from the police, Bonnie embarks on a journey to bring her sister home, venturing through fabled Red Honey Swamp, and the city’s vibrant and brutal history. Unravelling the layers of her sister’s secret life, Bonnie discovers a pattern of girls found half-mad in the Louisiana swampland, and a connection to the wealthy, notorious Lasalle family. To rescue her sister, she must confront the realities of true violence, and the very nature of insanity.
I will often pick a book for the setting, and Bonavere Howl was one I chose simply because the blurb said New Orleans. New Orleans is one of my very favorite cities to visit, I love its vibe and its energy and its people so much. One of my best friends is from New Orleans, and I love just listening to her talk about her hometown. So when I saw this, I had to read it.
If you have ever been to the Crescent City, you will know what that swampy, sticky, humid heat feels like. And Galway evokes this feeling, that lazy, energy sapping heat, that makes you want to just hide out in the shade with a big old glass of something cold, listening to some music, daydreaming. This sense permeates this book, and I read it during a particularly cold and damp week here in Michigan. The murky feeling penetrates to the plot of the book as well, not just the setting, but also the central mystery. Bonavere is a young woman whose sister just goes up and missing one evening, and Bonavere takes it upon herself to figure out where she disappeared to when it seems no one is looking hard enough. She has many accomplices throughout her search – her best friend Saul, her oldest sister Fritzie, but it is Bonavere’s perseverance that stands out. She is determined to find her sister, or at least the truth of where or what happened to her. Bonavere must contend with many obstacles along the way as well, including putting her friend Saul’s life and that of his family’s life, into danger.
The main focus is on the three sisters and their relationship. In some ways I was reminded of The Virgin Suicides, with the girls having a closeness and no one else really knowing or understanding them fully. Fritzie and Connie and Bonnie have a strong sisterly bond, one forged it seems through some parental indifference to the three girls. Bonnie never gives up on trying to find her sister, and just the fact that Connie’s presence is missing in the house lies palpably upon the two sisters remaining.
I was slowly sucked into this story, which languidly leads you down different paths until the final, chilling ending. A slow read, but a good one.
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.