The Roots of the Bayou
Chad J. LeBlanc
Independently Published (2022)
Reviewed by Rachel Deeming for Reader Views (09/22)
Good historical fiction is tricky to write. It has to have strong evocation of place and time as well as accuracy; it must also contain the human factor with characters who are believable in what they are facing and how they overcome it, and therefore, the situations in which they find themselves need to be of the period, to a degree. Some problems are timeless; others less so. In “The Roots of the Bayou”, LeBlanc has achieved these attributes effectively, showing how people from the past endure (or not) when faced with setbacks and prejudice, creating a book which, like so many that choose to reflect America’s history, shows the multicultural elements that make the country’s whole. In this particular novel, LeBlanc examines the origins of Louisiana’s population today.
LeBlanc concentrates his narrative on two families who are from two distinct geographical and cultural places: the Acadians, removed from Nova Scotia and the Isleños, from the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory off the coast of Africa. Inspired by his own knowledge of his background, he carefully creates a narrative which shows the troubles faced by his ancestors from 1755 through to 1832.
It is a hard life. Whether uprooted from homes forcibly or given the opportunity to leave voluntarily for the chance of a better life, the characters in this novel face strife at every turn, but it is not a dire read. LeBlanc is keen to show the people and their relationships and courage. Although the narrative deals with the same families and is linear in its structure, relating the tale from generation to generation, the problems faced are different and so, it is full of drama but it is not repetitive in this. It also offers hope.
LeBlanc makes the distinction clear between the Acadians and Isleños so I was never confused about which side of the family was the focus for that particular chapter. His writing style relates the events that occur with competence and I was always keen to know where the story was heading. I did feel sometimes that the more intensely tragic circumstances could have been expanded but this did not hinder my enjoyment of the book. Dialogue between characters always felt real, not contrived and this for me is crucial for my immersion in the action of the book, which leads to literal enjoyment and a need, propelling me to reach the end.