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Outside Child Paperback – September 1, 2007
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
From the Inside Flap
Pre-Katrina New Orleans: Ladonis Washington finds success within her grasp after the grisly death of her business mentor. But will she risk her brothers life in her search for the truth? When Tim Ganen ends up in the blades of a New Orleans paddleboat, a grieving Ladonis finds opportunity. Tim was her mentor, a white man willing to advise and guide a young, ambitious, well-educated black woman who grew up in the Magnolia Housing Project. Now his deaththe manner of his death and his secretsopens a door to promotion and success.But Ladonis is in over her head from the start. Floating Palace Steamboat Company CEO Bret Collins and Marketing Vice President Lamar Kasdan force Ladonis into their personal worlds of rivalry and deceit. Her initial forays place her in increasing jeopardy. Only her brother HeartTrouble seems able to rescue and deliver her from the villains and the dangers they threaten.HeartTrouble comes to her aid with intelligence, street experience, even attitude. In any other circumstances, Ladonis would have rejected her younger brothers street smarts. Will he renew Ladonis understanding in the values she has scorned and abandoned, and, in turn, discover value in her ambitions? Not before sister and brother face death together. In Outside Child, Alice Wilson-Fried has written a debut mystery novel that reveals more than circumstances of murder and its resolution. Alices childhood in the Magnolia Project and her life thereafter in New Orleans proper has enabled this talented storyteller to open up the world of native-born New Orleans blacks, their communities and their abilities to succeed in their city. Alice takes readers on a tour of a place and society that has raised questions and enlivened curiosity since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
About the Author
Alice Wilson-Fried grew up in the Magnolia Housing Project in New Orleans. After attending Grambling College and Tulane University, she worked in public relations at the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. For the past sixteen years, Alice has lived in California with her husband, Frank. She is a mother of two, stepmother of three, and grandmother of eight. She enjoys playing tennis, reading and continuing her involvement in the education and creative development of others.While Outside Child is Alice's first published novel, she is also the author of a nonfiction book entitled Menopause, Sisterhood, and Tennis. Alice is currently working on a sequel to Outside Child, focusing that novel on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
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As a black woman coming from a poor part of town in New Orleans, Ladonis knows how tough that climb is, but she's one determined lady. Complicating her life, however, is her cynical, anti-establishment brother, HeartTrouble, (I love that name) who has his own legal problems.
I liked and disliked several things about this book. First, the good news. This story is set in pre-Katrina New Orleans and author Alice Wilson-Fried, provides a wonderful sense of place and offers a no-holds barred look at race relations from a local's perspective. The bad news is that I wanted to like Ladonis, but as I got further into the book this became increasingly difficult. The character is driven primarily by ambition, and the frequent mention of her desire to protect the company and executives so she can move up was irritating. Also, Ladonis went so far beyond the law to find answers that the story became implausible in one or two spots, and those answers often came through a tad too many coincidences. Still, for the New Orleans flavor and a glimpse into the culture, the book is a good read.
This is a debut novel by a storyteller with a natural gift for capturing the southern dialect and conversational speech from both ends of New Orleans' society. At times her characters' conversations touch your emotions like a symphony that plays to the depth of your soul. It can be sharp, quick, witty, laughable, attacking and often deadly. The characters are memorable, so much so that it could easily be adapted to a screenplay or live theater. Each character is shaped by their speech and the role they play or the nickname they're called by. How can you forget Laundry Man, Preacher Man, HeartTrouble, L'il Boy, JockStrap and Big Blake?
My favorite scene from the book is when Ladonis visits her mother. Her mom is complaining because Ladonis doesn't visit often and says to her, "You don't miss the water till the well is dry." Now who can't relate to this remorse ridden remark? I immediately felt guilty for women all over the world. The words are priceless. Ladonis on the other hand has nicknames for her mother's three personalities and decides that this day she is Martyr Theresa. On other days she may call her Sick Puppy or Pissed Off.
This situation is so real, images of a time ticking by come to mind. Ladonis is too young to get that yet. It's a mother daughter thing. You love your mom, yet she drives you crazy. This conversation touches my heart and I felt the writer is very honest in her portrayal of their relationship. She makes you think about how precious the time you spend with your mom is and she captures the moment here beautifully.
Wilson-Fried, who grew up in the Magnolia Housing Projects, tackles the racism and social aspects of New Orleans. She shows how the marginal members of society, blacks, women and gays are still the city's outside children. To break into the New Orleans' white male dominated business and political arena there are challenges and tough choices needed to succeed with the endurance of a marathon runner. This is a theme that does not overpower the story but is the story. The mystery is a bonus, a wonderful who-done-it.
Anxiety ridden moments of anticipation will make you read on. You will hang on a limb at the end of each chapter. Don't miss reading this pre-Katrina New Orleans thriller.