This is sad, brutal and touching. It\’s about a poor family on the Mississippi coast, facing the oncoming terror of hurricane Katrina unawares. Well, they’ve had warnings. They prepare as they have always done, for hurricanes. This one is different. Without a mother, with their father injured, ill and abed. One son preoccupied with basketball, another keenly focused on his treasured pit bull who just birthed puppies and is also lined up for a fight. The daughter, through whose eyes we see all, has just realized she’s pregnant. They don’t seem particularly tender or supportive to one another, but cling together fiercely when facing the dire hurricane. The book has so many heavy themes: poverty and racism, dogfighting, teen pregnancy, the kids growing up pretty much on their own, older ones still keenly missing their mother and trying to raise the youngest. There’s also some very poetic and vivid prose, which led me to read it all the way through, in spite of the times when you’d want to look away.
Just so you know, there is brutality towards dogs, and to people. There is death. Katrina is a looming presence all through the book, but the actual storm doesn’t happen until the final two chapters. The aftermath is very brief, with the survivors going through the wreckage and finding who is still alive. Then it ends and you don’t even know what happened to all the characters, particularly the one I was most interested in… it has a hopeful note, but still, you don’t know.