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The Wrecked, Blessed Body of Shelton Lafleur Paperback – Large Print, March 1, 1997
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In The Wrecked, Blessed Body of Shelton Lafleur, a revered artist looks back on the adventures and sufferings of his childhood with compassion, wisdom, and humor. As an 8-year-old, Shelton Lafleur runs away from his foster home in the New Orleans Garden District. While trying to find refuge in a towering oak tree in one of the city's parks, he falls. The catastrophic accident leaves both legs crippled, determining the course of his life. After years in a grim orphanage, Shelton runs away again in search of his roots. A street artist named Minou befriends him, and ultimately becomes his mentor and inspiration. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
His first novel, the praised Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, established Brown as an extraordinarily gifted observer of Southern society, in particular of the nuances of racial relationships. His second book is a sensitive, richly atmospheric, almost gothic tale, as seen through the eyes of its eponymous black narrator. Shelton La Fleur recounts the mysteries of his sorrowful life as he perceived them as a child, raised by a crippled white woman whose father brought him as a baby to their mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. A fall from a tree one day when he is eight ends Shelton's privileged existence. Struck mute by the shock, he is sent, limbs permanently twisted, to a black orphans' home, where he exists in limbo and misery for the next five years. After he gathers the courage to run away, he is rescued by Minou Parrain, who takes Shelton to his home in the city's black district. Minou has a mysterious link to Shelton's past, and from him the boy eventually learns not only the secret of his identity and the sources of artistic creativity but also about the bonds of love and the possibility of grace. Indeed, the narrative is constructed as a fable of a hero who falls from grace and struggles back toward the light. Shelton becomes a painter, able to symbolize his experiences in his work and to reflect what he learns about the roles forced on the black community by poverty and prejudice, and anger and shame. Brown's touch here is not as sure as it was in his debut: the pace is initially slow; Shelton's voice is not always convincing; the prose is sometimes self-indulgent; and the final revelation of the circumstances of Shelton's "adoption" tests credulity. Once the momentum builds, however, Brown adroitly foils readers' expectations three times in quick succession. There is enough imaginative power in this tale to redeem its flaws. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Why not 5 stars? Same reason I gave for the 3 stars I gave "Decorations": The beginning of the book is better than the first novel, but still very confusing. In this case, I would have begun the story of Shelton by jumping into Minou's story in some manner. Minou is an important character, but does not enter until page 50 in the Avon paperback. This novel, like "Decorations" is in the first person (and some twists to third person); however, there could have been some structural play whereby Minou enters in a different voice. Might have grabbed more readers sooner.
So -- Mr. Brown, where are you with your fourth novel?
In spite of the painful circumstances of his childhood, and maybe because of them, LaFleur grows up to be a successful painter. Though some of his work is enigmatic and dark, he finds an audience as he matures. The story is written from the vantage point of the old man he's become.
It's been eight months since I read this book, and I still think about it. That's a book worth reading!
Carolyn Rowe Hill