Book Review: Under The Bayou Moon

9 Sep

Valerie Fraser Luesse has done it again! Each successive book by her has been my new favorite. I have another one in Under The Bayou Moon, a post-WWII historical novel that fully captured a wonderful place in America. All the details on the book and my thoughts are below.

Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She’s soon teaching just about everyone–and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the author of four novels set in the South: Christy Award winner Missing Isaac (2018), Almost Home(2019), The Key to Everything (2020), and the upcoming Under the Bayou Moon (August 2021), all published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. An award-winning magazine writer, Luesse is perhaps best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she wrote major pieces on the Mississippi Delta, Acadian Louisiana, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on the recovering Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, photographed by Mark Sandlin, won the 2009 Travel Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Auburn University and Baylor University, respectively. She is a native of Harpersville, Alabama, and lives in Birmingham, where she is the senior travel editor for Southern Living. Find her online at valeriefraserluesse.comfacebook.com/valeriefraserluessebooksbakerpublishinggroup.combookbub.com/authors/valerie-fraser-luesse; and goodreads.com

My Impressions:

Valerie Fraser Luesse is a masterful writer of Southern historical fiction. Focusing on the middle years of the 20th century, her books bring to life the paradoxes of the South. The power of community is a strong theme in her books, but she does not shy away from the prejudices and injustices that plagued the part of America that claims my heart. In her newest novel, Under the Bayou Moon, Luesse travels back to post-WWII Cajun country. I am a big fan of Louisiana — it is one of my favorite places to visit, and I felt like I was set right down in the midst of small town Bernadette with its loving, fiercely independent, and thorougly cajun/creole residents. Bernadette is in Bayou country — houses are on stilts on the edge of the swampy inlets, adults and children get to town, work, and school via fishing boats and pirogues. I can’t say it enough. Luesse brought the place and time to life for this reader. The story of Ellie and Raphe, an Alabama schoolteacher and a cajun fisherman, is charming. The two are characters I came to love and will never forget. There’s romance, suspense, danger, and a bit of magic involved in their story. If you ever visit the bayou, I promise you will be on the lookout for a white alligator! 😉 Luesse does not sugarcoat the history of the region, however. The plan to rid Louisiana from the cajun culture was real. I’m just glad that as in the book, the politicians did not succeed!

Filled with all the flavor of a very special region, Under The Bayou Moon is a must-read. I loved it all — the beautifully detailed setting, the endearing characters, and the uncovering of an important history. This book is very highly recommended!

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

6 Responses to “Book Review: Under The Bayou Moon”

  1. Mary September 10, 2021 at 4:29 pm #

    I can’t wait to read this. Her book, Almost Home, was wonderful! If you haven’t read it, I think you would enjoy it. Thanks for your great reviews. I always look forward to them. By the way, I grew up with the Burnham boys in Laurel. 😊

    • rbclibrary September 10, 2021 at 6:22 pm #

      Aww. Thanks! I have read all of Luesse’s novels. Each one is a gem. What was your last name when you lived in Laurel? Do you still live there?

      • Mary Nail September 10, 2021 at 6:37 pm #

        No I live in Picayune, Ms, but I have good memories of growing up in Laurel. My brother, Steve Swogetinsky was Don’s friend, but enjoyed al the brothers. I was the pesky younger sister, lol. We’ve always thought so much of the Burnham’s. Have a great evening!

      • rbclibrary September 11, 2021 at 3:13 pm #

        Brian says hello! And that he still remembers Doodles and Fifi.

  2. Sue Wendt September 11, 2021 at 3:03 pm #

    I always value your opinions and I’ve always enjoyed other Valerie Fraser Luesse books so I placed a library hold immediately after reading your review. I love it when the setting is so authentic that I feel connected to a place that I’ve never visited.

    • rbclibrary September 11, 2021 at 3:12 pm #

      I hope you love it too!

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