Book #6- City of Refuge by Tom Piazza

This is the rarest of choices… actually, I have to credit my wife. On a recent trip to Oxford, Mississippi, we sat in on a Thursday night Thacker Mountain Radio show where Piazza read part of the book. Thacker Mountain is a thing so cool that it would have to be in Oxford, Mississippi. If Garrison Keillor took Prarie Home Companion down South, got some soul and had some talented and wildly random musical guests (like the Northern Mississippi reggae band on the night we were there), it’d be a lot like Thacker Mountain.

Anyway, Piazza read a chapter from this novel and Julie and I were both enthralled. City of Refuge is basically “about” Hurricane Katrina. The derisive quotation marks come because it’s about ten million things, but they occur in the backdrop of Katrina. Two families, one black, one white, are charted through Katrina. You ride out evacuation with one family, and the storm itself with the other. You experience their displacement, their loss of geographic identity, and all of the questions that Katrina brought– Can we even go back? If we can, should we?

Piazza breathes life into his characters in a superb way. This is the best sort of novel, one that is based so well and written so realistically that it doesn’t feel like a novel at all. Sometimes, history is improved by fiction. I daresay that “The Grapes of Wrath” teaches about the Dust Bowl in the way that no history book can or will. In the same way, I found myself much more interested in Katrina and what it meant via this novel than via Headline News or magazine article after article.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a very fast read, and I suspect it will stand for years as a living and accurate interpretation of a terrible but historic moment. Sometimes the tension and claustrophobia of the tragedy are palpable in the pages, but the book seems to channel the heartbeat of its characters, just people, just like us, and suddenly fighting for everything.

Joe

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2 Responses to “Book #6- City of Refuge by Tom Piazza”

  1. Amy Hilliard Says:

    Sounds intriguing! I’ll put it on my to-read list.

  2. Barbara C. Says:

    Same here.

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