When novelist Judith Richards decided to write a story about a young boy caught up in the storm named Hurricane Katrina, she faced the task of getting it pitch perfect right. Katrina was an event that still is affecting people's lives so there are many survivors out there waiting to see if Richards was true to the event and its aftermath. In my opinion she did a great job of recreating the times and the terror of this raging hurricane in her novel Thelonious Rising.
The central character in her novel is nine year old Thelonious Monk DeCay. He lives in the North Parrish of New Orleans with his grandmother. His mother is dead and the whereabouts of his father are unknown to him. Monk, as most people call him, spends his days dancing in the areas of New Orleans where the tourists congregate. He and his friend Percy have gotten their act down and earn quite a good amount of money.
While Monk's summer days are full of fun and frolic there is a storm brewing in the Atlantic. It is named Katrina. There are warnings it could be a major storm but the people of New Orleans have heard rumors of this type in the past so many are not concerned about it. They will just ride it out. This is what Monk and his grandmother decide to do.
This is a huge mistake because the hurricane hits New Orleans and Monk's area with savagery. Monk is separated from his grandmother and is on his own. A fear of the police has been built into him so he avoids people who could perhaps help him. His only companion is a mentally challenged man who is adept at stealing food.
Monk is street smart beyond his years and his adventures make him a modern day Huck Finn. His relationship with Jon Latour is reminiscent of the friendship described in "Midnight Cowboy". Monk relies on Jon's street skills but he is also his caretaker to some degree.
Richards is particularly adept at creating tensions in the plot that keep readers hanging on every word. Monk is one of the most appealing young characters that we have discovered in some time. He is smart and brave, but he also has tender moments of fear and insecurity.
Thelonious Rising is the story of a city facing tragedy, and a young boy fighting to stay alive. Both are trying to stay afloat until the rain ceases and sanity returns. Getting to that point makes for an exhilarating but excruciating story. Thankfully we have a writer as talented as Richards to get us through it.
Thelonious Rising is published by Rovers Edge Media. It contains 322 pages and sells for $19.00.