Crossing Lake Pontchartrain

Arthur Byrd

Publisher: iUniverse Pages: 352 Price: (paperback) $20.99 ISBN: 9781663246066 Reviewed: January, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In this novel of recovery and rebirth, a disappointed, middle-aged Mississippian wends his way into post-Katrina New Orleans and finds a path forward.

At 40, Larry Winstead is unemployed and separated by a continent from his grown son, Tim. When his wife announces she’s leaving him for another man, Larry doesn’t object; this is exactly what he expects for a loser like himself, a guy whose own father disappeared on him and his mother 20 years ago.

Larry takes a new job in New Orleans, where he struggles with alcohol abuse, self-hatred, and loneliness. He moves between Hattiesburg, where his mother is his anchor of unconditional love, and New Orleans, where he meets a cast of wise, insightful characters who see the man Larry wants to be: a writer, father, lover—in essence, a whole person. But until he fills the hole created by his father’s abandonment, can Larry achieve his dreams?

As his circle of new friends in New Orleans widens, Larry starts to accept that what he believes about himself and his past might not be true.

Byrd builds a compelling mystery with carefully dropped clues, and, although it resolves abruptly, it offers logic and emotional lift. Byrd uses all the senses to bring New Orleans’ enduring culture to life, even as the city’s residents struggle to recover from catastrophe. These characters have unique voices and impart hard-earned life lessons that give readers much to think about.

When Byrd conveys Larry’s unforced thoughts, the writing rings true; for example, when he laments his unsatisfying marriage of convenience: “Turns out memory doesn’t reveal much about unnoticed time.” However, the author’s similes and metaphors are often baffling: “Hours of silence hatched the noise of urgency” or “The night crept with fish climbing steel cages.” Less self-conscious literary writing would enhance the story.

That aside, Crossing Lake Pontchartrain offers an enjoyable, life-affirming visit to New Orleans, filled with authentic conversation and soul-searching.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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