Monday, April 1, 2013

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

I'm a big fan of the slow build. It's a storytelling device that works particularly well in written storytelling. And when it's done well, it's hard to beat. The problem with the slow build is that it puts pressure on the climax of the story. People are expecting something big. The payoff is kind of the point of the slow build.
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is one big slow build. No sooner does Leganski introduce a character in her tale, than she is dropping hints about their arc, punctuating her story with spots of foreshadowing. Leganski lays out the basic plot of her novel in the first eight pages. She introduces her readers to Bonaventure as he is being introduced to the world, immediately signaling to her readers that there is something unique--something special--about this little baby, and that this special something is the organizing force of the novel. She describes him as being able to "hear conjured charms and sanctified spirits deep in the marrow of New Orleans. He could hear the movements of voodoo queens and the prayers of long dead saints. He could hear the past and the present." Two paragraphs later, Leganski introduces Trinidad Prefontaine as "a kindred spirit" that Bonaventure needed to join up with. Bonaventure and Trinidad don't meet for another 170-some pages.

Leganski lets her readers in on the story piece by piece, jumping back a generation when backstory is necessary, and all the while bouncing between three story lines, seemingly disparate except that Leganski has explicitly told her readers that they will converge. She conjures a mystical mid-20th century Louisiana and populates it with equally mystical characters.

Leganski does a better job with the slow build, than she does with the ending. There is no real climax to the story. That's not to say that loose ends are not tied up, that story lines are not put to rest. But the story didn't crescendo like I expected it would.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being a part of this tour.