Copyright 2014 by Paula S. Jordan
You might think of this post as a book review trailer, an early comment about a great read that will get more detailed examination sometime soon. Because it deserves it.
It is also a hint to writers looking for the secret to satisfying character creation and development: Read this book. This is the way it should be done.
There is no science fiction or fantasy about Jazz Funeral, by Julie Smith, only the magic of New Orleans and Jazz and the mysteries and foibles of the human soul in all its imperfection.
Ms. Smith’s infinite knowledge and talented depiction of human nature, aided and abetted by an unwavering devotion to honesty mellowed by endless sympathy, have produced here a tour de force: the most massively dysfunctional extended family I have ever run across in literature or out.
What is this family like? Occasionally loving, but most often consciously, stunningly cruel. Variously talented. Greedy, but occasionally giving. Or, poignantly, emphatically not all those things, but creative, generous souls too young or too insecure to escape the emotional tyranny of the family long enough to discover the never-normal but at least more normal world of New Orleans just outside.
It is important to note that each of the major elemental forces in this perfect human storm gets his or her moment of clarity, the revelation of causes (redemptive or not) where we readers may glimpse the reasons why, and occasionally the seeds of a more generous humanity waiting for one spot of sunlight to show them the way out.
I hasten to explain that there is much more to this book than the conflicts suggested here. There are imminently readable elements of love and laughter and friendship, as well as the mystery and suspense of unsolved murder.
Also, like the prize at the bottom of the box, there is Skip Langdon, a sterling, six-foot-plus, somewhat over-weight, female New Orleans police detective. Skip has her own complications, of course, but along with them come the skills and the heart to sort out at least most of this mess.
And over, under, around, and through it all are the incomparable, worldly-wise strains of New Orleans Jazz.