Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood is one of the three surviving members of the Blackwood family. Each Tuesday and Friday she buys groceries in the NMary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood is one of the three surviving members of the Blackwood family. Each Tuesday and Friday she buys groceries in the New England village where her family has always lived. Young Merricat, 18, isn't fond of the people of the village; they tease, they ridicule, they pretend niceties in her presence and laugh loudly as she leaves, so as to make certain Merricat knows it's her they're laughing about. "The people of the village have always hated us," she says. "Us" being the Blackwoods.
The Blackwoods wouldn't be considered a "normal" family, though. At least, not in the eyes of the village. Theirs is a family of privilege, tucked away on a large plot of land in a giant house. Merricat lives there with her older sister Constance and frail Uncle Julian. Everyone else in the family is dead. Poisoned. Poisoned right in their home. Poisoned at dinner — dessert, actually; arsenic, in the sugar bowl.
Constance Blackwood has assumed the role of matriarch. She acts as Uncle Julian's caretaker, tends to their garden, and cooks and ritualistically cleans their home. Constance also stays isolated from anyone outside her family, afraid of the world and unable to leave the house, aside from Mrs. Clarke from the village, the sole guest they occasionally host for tea. And willful prankster Merricat hardly acts the proper lady "befitting a Blackwood", running through the woods, staying dirty — much to Constance's dismay, and amusement — burying family items in well-hidden spots around the land and wooded area.
Uncle Julian is confined to a wheelchair, dependent on Constance since the poisonings. He putters around a manuscript he's maintained of everything he can recall about the incident that tore the Blackwoods apart. Uncle Julian is eccentric and acts as the reader's surrogate by framing questions ("Why was the arsenic not put into the rarebit?") and offering speculations and ill-timed comedic relief ("You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine. Is it still in use? you are wondering; has it been cleaned? you may very well ask.").
One day, Cousin Charles arrives, disrupting what's otherwise a peaceful harmony in the Blackwood home. He has plans for the family and Merricat feels it's her duty to cast out this stranger before he causes any more damage.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle was Shirley Jackson's final book. The story's era isn't directly mentioned, though it would seem to take place in the 1950's, presumably in New Hampshire where Jackson lived. Jackson effectively captures the natural attitudes we have toward outsiders; the villagers see the Blackwoods as outsiders and in-turn, Mericatt and Constance view the villagers the same way. Outside the Blackwood home the world appears dark and mysterious, yet inside they live surrounded by the haunting memory of a poisoned family which they embrace with a strange comfort. They've become every town's strange family living in the big strange house. This edition has a terrific introduction by Jonathan Lethem and jacket artwork by Thomas Ott that beautifully captures the story's thematic tone....more
Here in the Barataria, Louisiana, the residents are hurting. The Bayou has never fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and now, just months after thHere in the Barataria, Louisiana, the residents are hurting. The Bayou has never fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and now, just months after the BP oil spill, the economic situation has turned dire. Trawlers are coming up thin and no one is buying. Generations of livelihood have come to a slow halt in this middle of this environmental disaster.
Gus Lindquist has his own ideas about improving his financial footing. His wife left has him, his arm has been stolen — his prosthetic one — he pops of regimen of Oxy day in, day out, and the entire town knows he's pretty much off his nut. So it wouldn't hurt Lindquist's public image any to take his metal detector out into the Bayou looking for lost pirate treasure.
Lindquist's excursions into the swamp don't go unnoticed; his journeys through alligator-infested waters are a little closer to a hidden marijuana crop than two brothers want. As Lindquist looks to find his fortune, so do a pair of petty criminals out for a quick scam, a teenager who dreams of something better than trawling for his family, and a BP oil rep who simply needs everyone in town to sign a settlement — without having a jar of piss thrown in his face — all looking for the fastest way out of the Barataria.
In The Marauders Tom Cooper attempts to do for Louisiana what Carl Hiaasen has done for Florida, which is exploit the unscrupulous, ass-backwards, Southern freak show of everyday life. There are some funny moments but as a whole The Marauders is more thin than I expected. With this many characters intertwined with one another there's much more substance that needs to be added with the storyline. Readers should be given at least another 50 pages. The Marauders was a nice diversion but I found it to be a tad bit oversold by some of the book jacket praise....more