Jewell Parker Rhodes’ novel of famed Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau read like a typical historical novel…at first. But then, well, it diverged from the regular feel of the historical novel genre and took its own path. To begin with, each section opens with a fictionalized journal entry from Louis DeLavier’s notes — taking the form of transcribed conversations and personal musings. It also goes in a variety of different directions as the non-linear storyline goes from past to present and back again.
The protagonist, Marie Laveau, is the type of woman who you wouldn’t want to cross, and who you might even want to be friends with. Through her, Rhodes explores themes of domestic violence, family legacies, and cultural heritage. She’s an interesting enough character, although at times a bit static. However, she captures the interest easily enough, and her feats as New Orleans’ Voodoo Queen make her mysterious and attractive while somehow also humanizing (rather than fetishizing) her.
I’ll admit that part of the appeal of this book is my upcoming trip to New Orleans, and it most certainly does make me want to make a visit to the cemetery where Marie Laveau is buried, or visit the Marie Laveau House of Voodoo (kitschy, I know, but true nonetheless), or just wander the streets of such a history-filled city.