C. Morgan Babst
Lush with the scents of ligustrum, a fallen magnolia, an evening breeze off the Mississippi River, New Orleans author C. Morgan Babst’s debut novel, “The Floating World,” sings the world of aftermath—of devastation, desire, the city’s dead. Here is the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, above and beyond the ruptured levees, inside the psyche of a family wrought with longing and despair at the sight and reek of their drowned home. The five members and three generations of the Boisdoré family reveal this story in ribboning, intersecting storylines, emphasizing the truth of the novel’s epigraph from Virgil’s “Aeneid”: “Each must be his own hope.”
Bay Area author, alumna of Harvard, Radcliffe, and UC Berkeley, Hilary Zaid surprises, and her debut novel, “Paper is White,” is indeed an astonishing and successful surprise. Balancing weighted subjects with blue skies and beautiful slices of cake, with wedding arrangements and secret encounters, Zaid measures out humor with generosity, hope with passion, even grief with impossible understanding. Through narrative spun in first person, lead character and heroine Ellen Margolis finds her way in late 90s San Francisco, where elderly Holocaust survivors reveal their stories, relationships grow close and become divided, and the past lies like a wedding veil across the future.