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The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish [Hardcover]

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Item description for The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish by Elise Blackwell...

As the waters of the Mississippi

rise in 1927, the moneyed powers

of Louisiana must decide which

Parish to flood in order to save

New Orleans.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   210
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2007
Publisher   Unbridled Books
ISBN  1932961313  
ISBN13  9781932961317  

Availability  0 units.

More About Elise Blackwell

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Elise Blackwell is the author of The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish and Hunger, chosen by the Los Angeles Times as one of the best books of 2003. Originally from southern Louisiana, she teaches at the University of South Carolina.

Elise Blackwell currently resides in Princeton Columbia, in the state of New Jersey. Elise Blackwell was born in 1964.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary

Reviews - What do customers think about The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish?

Flooding, Hansen's Disease, Louisana politics  Aug 11, 2008
Set in the 1920's, this was an interesting read with a unique combination of events: the impending flood and the "political" response to it mixed together with family dynamics and a touch of Hansen's Disease. I especially like the "memoir" feel of the book although it is fiction. The short chapters also lend themselves to the mixture of events. I consider this a "good read" - short, quick, and interesting.
A good read from an upcoming Southern Author  Oct 14, 2007
My reading group read is reading this second novel from this up and coming Southern Author, Elise Blackwell. I truly enjoyed the characters and immersion into the culture of 1927 Southern Louisiana. Not being from the south, this novel did not apologize for the culture, but presented it as was and the story came to life through the characters as they each made decisions based on their social position, economic and family interests. It is a truly enjoyable read and a book I would recommend to others who want some insight into a part of American life that is not urban but truly shows that all of us - regardless of where we live in this nation - are more alike than different. What I found most insightful was that the decisions in the communities where we live are made by a few and through compromise and are often not motivated by seeking the greater good, especially for the poor. A haunting novel that does truly speak to parallels between a 1927 flood event and Hurricane Katrina.
Stunning Novel Set in Louisiana during 1927 Flood  Jul 3, 2007
In this stunning novel, Elise Blackwell beautifully interweaves natural history, human history, and the events surrounding the 1927 Mississippi River flood. Louis Proby is a boy of 17 during that spring, and he learns a great deal about what it means to be a man. His teachers include an artist who loses himself in the natural world and a man of wealth and power who takes Louis into the back rooms of New Orleans where a group of men with a great financial stake in that great city decide to blow up the levees and flood "Cypress" Parish in order to save New Orleans. The human cost of the flood is in here, but above all this is the story of the good and bad in people, and how difficult it can be for a young person to figure out which is which, all of it told with the colors and rhythms of the Mississippi escaping its banks. I would highly recommend this fine novel.
reflections on life in 1920s Louisiana  Apr 4, 2007
The skies are darkening as the weather service predicts a huge type 4 maybe even 5 hurricane to hammer the gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. The media focuses in on what Katrina might do to New Orleans, but ignores the impact on some of the other locales like Cypress Parish. Nonagenarian Louis Proby waits for the perfect storm to come ashore from his home as he reflects on the storm of the previous century that destroyed Cypress Parish in 1927.

He was seventeen years old, one of four offspring of Cypress Parish's lumber company superintendent, wheeler dealer William Proby. Louis understood that his dad's position meant he ran the Parish also. Louis, at his father's coaxing, planned to become a doctor, but currently was making money chauffeuring lumber company official Charles Segrist to and from New Orleans; he got the job because of his dad, but enjoys the side benefits of partying at the clubs. However, though a teen, it is the plan and execution that his father condoned for a fee that haunts him most eight decades later. The plan included blowing up the Cypress Parish levee to release the floodwaters there that will destroy that backwater in order to keep New Orleans safe, but the teen begins to believe the destruction of his home is unnecessary, but only money matters.

Using Katrina as a hook, THE UNNATURAL HISTORY OF CYPRESS PARISH is a fabulous look back to Bayou politics and history during the Huey Long era through the filter of a senior citizen waiting out the latest storm of the century. The story line is character driven as Louis knows what he lost when the levees were dynamited besides a home; he thinks back to Nanette and what could have been if only the power brokers including his father were not greedy. Readers will appreciate his reflections on life in 1920s Louisiana.

Harriet Klausner
"It's always a mistake to believe you can control something wild."  Mar 20, 2007

Reflecting the turbulent history of Louisiana and the ungovernable Mississippi River, this novel, written while the protagonist awaits the full force of Katrina, harkens back to another devastating flood in 1927. Like the present day reality of lives in jeopardy, the earlier tragedy was also exacerbated by damaged levees and the sacrifice of one area of a population for another, in this case the destruction of Cypress Parish to save greater New Orleans, a flourishing city in the late 1920s. Now an elderly man reminiscing on his youth, Louis Proby begins his narrative at seventeen, on the cusp of manhood, a dutiful son with a love of learning. Although his father wants him to become a physician, Louis leans towards the natural sciences, describing the natural habitat of Cypress Parish through the eyes of one who would retain those images over the passing years.

William Proby, a logger and company-town superintendent, teaches his son some early lessons about survival in the world at large, taking Louis along as he deals with parish life. But Louis learns as well from the men he meets as a driver for a wealthy businessman, more sophisticated and worldly entrepreneurs, as well as experiencing the rush of first love with a woman he will never see again after the flood. In any case, the careful plans of many families are swept away by the rising tide of the Big Muddy, the levees unable to stave off the ravages of nature's excess and man's intemperate planning. To be sure, powerful men realize the enormity of the danger to the parish, dire warnings of the coming disaster reported months before it occurs, but such is the voracious nature of profit that a few wealthy men make decisions that will destroy the futures of those with no voice to ameliorate such decisions. Thus it happens, Cypress Parish is dynamited, inundated with flood water to save the more important and burgeoning New Orleans, all of Louis' childhood memories submerged in a watery grave.

Retelling his youth, Louis describes a father who is a fair but harsh taskmaster, the differences of white and black existence in 1927 Louisiana, the social construct that rigidly restricts congress between races and the occasional case of leprosy that continues to plague the area. Against the background of the beauty of a natural environment on the banks of the Mississippi, Louis' first brush with intimacy is beautifully framed by his inchoate desire and the pull of family responsibility, painfully torn by the choices he is forced to make. His family quartered with the whites during the flood, Louis doesn't report much of the scandalous treatment of blacks after the disaster, but does capture that particular nostalgia with which the elderly remember the distant days of childhood. For all the attraction of those days, clearly the same harsh societal restrictions continue to mar the image of a simple America. Albeit softened by memory, life is never as beneficent as it seems in one's youth. Luan Gaines/2007.

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