The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst

The Floating World

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans. Though the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora, the family’s fragile elder daughter, refuses to leave the city, forcing her parents, Joe Boisdo...

Title:The Floating World
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Edition Language:English

The Floating World Reviews

  • Diane S ☔

    Before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. A family torn apart by the refusal of one daughter to leave with the mandatory evacuation order. Changes and survival. Unfortunately I found the writing style not to my liking, just kind of disjointed and strange. Never really connected to any of the characters nor the storyline, so abandoning after fifty percent. Kept reading, was interested in the subject matter and kept hoping it would draw me in. Accepting defeat!

  • Devin Murphy

    This book blew me away. I loved the language and story. The fact that it is about to come out just after Houston is flooding is wild. What a great read you should jump on right NOW.

  • Becky

    I got my hands on an ARC of this book through a friend in the industry who thought I'd like it, and she was not wrong. This book was beautifully written. While the plot centered around death, destruction, and deteriorating familial relationships, the language coursed in a very poetic, lyrical way, and the global structure ebbed and flowed between the past and the present... which just seems fitting for a story about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on one New Orleans family.

    The book is not about

    I got my hands on an ARC of this book through a friend in the industry who thought I'd like it, and she was not wrong. This book was beautifully written. While the plot centered around death, destruction, and deteriorating familial relationships, the language coursed in a very poetic, lyrical way, and the global structure ebbed and flowed between the past and the present... which just seems fitting for a story about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on one New Orleans family.

    The book is not about the city as a whole or the hurricane or its aftermath to the city itself, but rather about one family who can trace their own history almost as far back as the founding of the New Orleans. The Boisdoré family is tied to the city - there is a recurrence throughout the generations of attempts to leave, only to be drawn back - but when the mandatory evacuations before Katrina were given, Joe (an artist) and Tess (a psychiatrist) pack up and leave with Joe's father (a former artisan furniture maker and current sufferer of some form of dementia), but leave their adult daughter, Cora, alone to brave the storm, while their other daughter, Del, watches the news from her NYC home.

    Something happens during the storm that leaves Cora trapped in her own mind. She won’t talk to anyone about what she saw, she spends most of her days in bed, and wanders from the house in the middle of the night, barefoot, through all the toxic muck left by the storm. Del leaves everything she has in NYC and rushes home to New Orleans without any intention of returning, and their parents separate, the blame they lay on themselves and each other for Cora's reaction only exacerbating years of doubts and tensions stemming, not insignificantly, from their different race and class backgrounds. Tess stays with the girls, and Joe moves into the Boidoré cabin with his father, each dealing with their own personal demons and a heavy dose of denial. The style of the book unfolds the story from each of the characters’ unique points of view, giving us a unique portrait of how they each deal with grief, tragedy, and betrayal.

    Despite the profound depression cast over the plot, there is a sense of perseverance. Like the city after the storm, the Boisdoré family, torn apart and broken, still has the hope and strength to rebuild. Rebuilding will look very different, maybe even more like a re-creation, but it could be better. I liked the metaphor of the family for the city, and the storm for the whole slew of problems the Boisdorés are facing. I loved the use of language and the peek into this family’s lives. That being said, this book is not for everyone. It fits squarely into the Literary Fiction category, which I guess some people don’t like. It’s not a genre book, so it’s not going to follow a formula or give you all the pieces of a neat little puzzle. Like real life, you’re going to be missing certain things when you get to know these people. But it’s a beautifully told story that I enjoyed very much – probably about a 4.5 on the star scale. I rounded to 5 because it deserves it.

    One critique – at the end, there are some phone numbers used for Rome, Illinois (in the central part of the state). The area code in the galley copy was 319, which is actually central Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City), which also experienced horrific, toxic, home-destroying, thousand-year flood conditions only 3 years after Katrina hit New Orleans. While there were definitely those who lost homes in both floods, I would hate for any of the characters in this book to be connected to both, especially erroneously.

  • Rebekah Frank

    I really liked this book. There were a few areas where I found the writing slightly confusing; I had to reread pages here and there to make sure I was following appropriately but overall I thought it was great.

    It was given to me by a friend in the industry (she thought I would like it since I had just returned from an 8 month stay in New Orleans) and she was right. It captured a very specific time in New Orleans history, one in which all the racism and classism came to the fore and an entire ci

    I really liked this book. There were a few areas where I found the writing slightly confusing; I had to reread pages here and there to make sure I was following appropriately but overall I thought it was great.

    It was given to me by a friend in the industry (she thought I would like it since I had just returned from an 8 month stay in New Orleans) and she was right. It captured a very specific time in New Orleans history, one in which all the racism and classism came to the fore and an entire city was changed forever. So many of the local issues that were never brought to attention on the national level were dealt with at that time and this book gets at some of them. I would definitely recommend this book.

  • Kate Olson

    This book is not an easy read. It's not a page turner or a nail biter. It's not a story of a strong New Orleans rising after a devastating storm and it's not a story of a family coming together in a time of need. It's a

    This book is not an easy read. It's not a page turner or a nail biter. It's not a story of a strong New Orleans rising after a devastating storm and it's not a story of a family coming together in a time of need. It's a fiercely honest account of a family going through tortured times, both emotional and environmental. It's a story of hearts breaking and a city sinking and the absolute worst that people can do. As you read, you are trapped in the brains of humans who are suffering, both in typical ways and in ways brought about by mental illness and dementia.

    But. But. You also experience the depths of the human condition and the brutal racial divide in the city. You learn about the horrors of a storm most of us haven't experienced firsthand, and to understand is to empathize.

    Is this happy? No. Is it important? Yes.

    If you like dark, ruminative stories about complex social issues, this one's for you. If you're looking for a light, fast-paced adventure story about surviving a hurricane, this will definitely surprise you with its slow and meandering nature and psychological focus.

  • Tonstant Weader

    The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst examines the aftermath of Katrina through the life of a family shattered by the event. While reading it, I thought of Kai T. Erikson’s famed “Everything In Its Path” about the Buffalo Creek Flood that destroyed a small community in West Virginia and his research identifying the collective trauma as post-traumatic stress disorder. In a large part, this book is about that collective trauma and its effect on the Boisdoré family.

    There are five members of the fam

    The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst examines the aftermath of Katrina through the life of a family shattered by the event. While reading it, I thought of Kai T. Erikson’s famed “Everything In Its Path” about the Buffalo Creek Flood that destroyed a small community in West Virginia and his research identifying the collective trauma as post-traumatic stress disorder. In a large part, this book is about that collective trauma and its effect on the Boisdoré family.

    There are five members of the family we follow. The oldest is the grandfather Vincent who is suffering from dementia. He had been living in a nursing home until evacuated by his son ahead of the flood. He is often living in his childhood. He was a famed cabinet maker from a long line of skilled artisans. Then there is Joe Boisdoré, the father, and his now estranged wife Dr. Tess Eshleman. He is an artist and she is a psychiatrist. They have two daughters, Dolores (Del) and Cora. Cora is deeply depressed. She refused to leave New Orleans during the evacuation and it was three weeks before her family found her. Her family does not know what happened during those three weeks, but they blame each other for allowing it to happen, which is why Tess and Joe have separated. Del had moved to New York and watched the flood on television, but she is no less touched by the trauma of losing home and a solid foundation.

    I felt sympathy for each person on their own, but not together. The mother, Tess, is white and so oblivious to privilege. She thinks Joe is a coward because he was turned away by the Blackwater security forces keeping people out. She has no understanding of how privileged her assessment is. His own grandfather was lynched as the adult Vincent surely saw through the lie of his drowning when he grew older and understood the significance of that kerchief around his neck. A guard mock shoots him with a finger-gun, making the point that he could easily kill him with impunity. Joe understands that, but Tess cannot and cannot forgive. Instead, she sees this tragedy as a way to regain the life she wanted when she was in high school, an infantilist regression to an easier life. She even imagines if she had married a white man, she would have easier children. There is so much that appalls me about Tess, even when I feel empathy for her fears about her daughter Cora.

    Cora is going through her own hell, deeply traumatized and confused. Del is trying to be supportive and help her but cannot help feeling impatient and sick of it, too. She has her own life to figure out.

    The is a lush beauty to the writing in The Floating World which makes me wish I liked it better. I was often struck by beautiful imagery and rich descriptions, but the story itself felt jumbled and chaotic. Perhaps this was a deliberate choice, mental illness is often chaotic and jumbled and navigating through it can make one feel lost and confused. The story jumps from one person to the next, a fairly common narrative technique. However, the transitions are disjointed and disruptive. They seem designed to unsettle the reader more than further the story. These breaks give the story a hallucinatory feeling at times that may be a deliberate effort to evoke the confusion and alienation of trauma, but for me, was simply annoying. Babst is clearly an excellent stylist, I just wish she did not work so hard to confound her readers.

    I received an e-galley of The Floating World from the publisher through NetGalley.

    The Floating World at Algonquin

    C. Morgan Babst author site

  • Kathleen Gray

    This isn't always the easiest book- it touches on racial issues, dysfunctional families, and the destruction wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in so many more ways than physical. Ironically, I read this in the wake of the terrible Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, making this even more of a cautionary tale than it might have been a few months ago. Babst has a writing style that forces you to read every word. The Boisdore family is not representative of all New Orleans families but it's got quite a

    This isn't always the easiest book- it touches on racial issues, dysfunctional families, and the destruction wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in so many more ways than physical. Ironically, I read this in the wake of the terrible Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, making this even more of a cautionary tale than it might have been a few months ago. Babst has a writing style that forces you to read every word. The Boisdore family is not representative of all New Orleans families but it's got quite a history and a story to tell. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This is not going to be the book for everyone but it's a wonderful piece of literary fiction that will make you think about how we treat one another in the wake of destruction and tragedy.

  • Sharon McNeil

    All though this is a serious piece of literary fiction, I would not recommend it for gleaning information on Katrina. Try Sherri Fink's Five Days at Memorial, or Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge.

    My major objection to this novel is that it jumps back and forth from one dysfunctional family member (grandfather with dementia, a young bipolar daughter, a separated bi-racial mother and father, who split upas a result of the storm: none of whom, like one another. Add to this, the narrative jumps f

    All though this is a serious piece of literary fiction, I would not recommend it for gleaning information on Katrina. Try Sherri Fink's Five Days at Memorial, or Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge.

    My major objection to this novel is that it jumps back and forth from one dysfunctional family member (grandfather with dementia, a young bipolar daughter, a separated bi-racial mother and father, who split upas a result of the storm: none of whom, like one another. Add to this, the narrative jumps from stream of consciousness, to arguments among the family members, and conversations with a psychiatrist.

    A very ambitious novel, but it's not a pleasant or cogent read.

  • Paige Green

    Rating:3/5

    Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

    Recommended Age: 16+ (racial issues, mental illness, natural disaster)

    I received a free copy of this book through GrownUpReads, an off-shoot of KidLitExchange. All opinions are my own.

    In this dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, C. Morgan Babst takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina and the life of a great city.

    As the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora Boisdoré refuses to leave the city. Her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an a

    Rating:3/5

    Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

    Recommended Age: 16+ (racial issues, mental illness, natural disaster)

    I received a free copy of this book through GrownUpReads, an off-shoot of KidLitExchange. All opinions are my own.

    In this dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, C. Morgan Babst takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina and the life of a great city.

    As the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora Boisdoré refuses to leave the city. Her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from freed slaves who became the city’s preeminent furniture makers, and his white “Uptown” wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, are forced to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic—the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.

    This mystery is at the center of Babst’s haunting and profound novel. Cora’s sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the successful life she built in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city and the trauma of a disaster that was not, in fact, some random act of God but an avoidable tragedy visited on New Orleans’s most vulnerable citizens. Separately and together, each member of the Boisdoré clan must find the strength to remake home in a city forever changed.

    The Floating World is the Katrina story that needed to be told—one with a piercing, unforgettable loveliness and a vivid, intimate understanding of this particular place and its tangled past. – Amazon.com

    This book was beautiful from beginning to end. It was a very intimate look at the aftermath of Katrina in a way that no one really discusses. Usually people focus on the damage the hurricane did, but this book focuses on the effect the hurricane had on the people. It was a very emotionally heavy book. I thought the character development was very well done. You learn about these characters through their emotional issues. I also felt the book did a great job making the book feel very realistic.

    Unfortunately I did have some dislikes about this book. I felt the writing was a bit everywhere and thus I had some issue following the book and the plot. The pacing was also very weird in spots. The book might have been wrote that way on purpose because it reflects the thinking process of the characters, but for the reader it makes for a very hard read.

    Verdict: This is a beautiful book that needs to be read, but the way it was wrote is not my style. I think if you can get into this type of writing then this will be a 5 star for you and if you’re into historical fiction then you’ll love this book.

  • Jen

    I liked this story. I wanted to like this book, I really did. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn't. I can't. The writing itself was beautifully well done, but was undermined by the disjointed chronology of the storytelling. It was extremely confusing to figure out what was going on, and when. That kind of thinking is expected in thriller novels, not a family drama, where I'm supposed to let my heart lead through the pages, not my mind. The female characters in the sto

    I liked this story. I wanted to like this book, I really did. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn't. I can't. The writing itself was beautifully well done, but was undermined by the disjointed chronology of the storytelling. It was extremely confusing to figure out what was going on, and when. That kind of thinking is expected in thriller novels, not a family drama, where I'm supposed to let my heart lead through the pages, not my mind. The female characters in the story, Tess and her two daughters, were, truthfully, rather pathetic, weak, and unlikable. I feel badly for the men in the story - Joe, Tony, and Zach, because they are each presented as fine men, who, because of their love for these women, are sadly taken advantage of time and time again. Then again, they kept coming back for more, so shame on you once... Oh, and side note: I've never been to a psychiatrist, but I'm pretty sure I'm correct in being rather offended in the presentation of both Tess as her friend Alice as such. The obliviousness and unprofessionalism both women displayed makes me think there was no research done into the profession by the author.

    In the end, I'll look for other books by this author, because of the promising writing style, but I really hope that she switches to either linear timelines, or to the suspense genre.

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