Title: Little Gale Gumbo
Author: Erika Marks
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Camille Bergeron fled New Orleans, Louisiana with her two beloved daughters Josie and Dahlia and settled on Little Gale, an island off the coast of Maine, thinking they would move along soon. But when they are welcomed by Ben Haskell and his teenage son, Matthew, they think that staying might not be the worst decision. Years later, when the girls are grown and Camille has passed, Josie and Dahlia’s biological father, Charles, returns to the island and has an encounter that leaves Ben in the hospital and exposes the fictions Dahlia and Josie have been hiding behind all these years.
Little Gale Gumbo is a charming novel full of love and hope, but also about the difficult nature of family. When Camille leaves New Orleans with her daughters, she is only thinking of their safety, something she should have done long before. Camille is a practitioner of voodoo, and Marks gives the reader a glimpse into this foreign culture and religion. Camille, and Josie after her, really believes in her protective spells and enchantments. However, even voodoo is not enough to keep the family safe from Charles; it can be frustrating to see how Camille bends to his will, one of the classic symptoms of an abused woman.
Dahlia and Josie are both complex and well-written characters. When she’s young, Dahlia escapes from the world with the boys around her, sure she will never be truly loved. As an adult, Dahlia refuses to commit to any real relationship. On the other hand, Josie is a married woman, but hasn’t found the happiness she so desperately seeks. Both of these sisters compete over the affections of Matthew; Dahlia because that’s where she’s comfortable and Josie because she truly believes she loves him. When it comes to Matthew, readers will want to shake sense into both of these woman. Their lives are twisted and complex, but they are a lot of fun to read.
The food in Little Gale Gumbo is mouthwatering and left me craving some spicy Creole gumbo. The descriptions are absolutely wonderful, and this attention to detail is characteristic of the entire novel. Marks uses such subtle details and shading in order to build her story. She really pays attention to the small things, and it pays off with the rich atmosphere and the way the characters leap off the page. Marks creates an entire world with her novel, one that readers will want to immerse themselves in.
Though sometimes I wanted to reach into Little Gale Gumbo and talk some sense into the characters, that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the book any less. It just means that Marks wrote realistic characters full of messy relationships that make mistakes, just like any person. The beauty of this book is in the relationships and Marks’ definition of family, how the Bergeron/Haskell family came together and became one. This would make a great book club pick, as readers will want to thoroughly discuss the characters of Josie and Dahlia.