Jameson Currier’s latest novel has all of the trappings of Southern Gothic fiction: a steamy New Orleans setting, ghosts, voodoo, and the specter of the Peculiar Institution (slavery). What he does with such timeworn tropes, however, is unique. Avery Dalyrymple III co-owns and runs the Le Petite Paradis, a ramshackle gay guesthouse in the Vieux Carre with his ex-partner, Parker, who runs the adjoining restaurant, Café Surtout. Also living in the guesthouse is the former owner and both Parker’s and Avery’s ex-lover Mack, who is ill from AIDS-related complications. Mack’s death sets off shockwaves, both in the world of the living and the dead, as Avery begins to see various apparitions that range from the historical (the original owners of the guesthouse property and their slaves), the more recent (Mack’s first love and a researcher of paranormal phenomena), and the near demonic—a ghostly white wolf. Avery also has to deal with the break up of his current relationship, Mack’s greedy relatives and his own growing alcoholism. Avery must find away to bring a balance back to the house, and, indeed, his own life.
If this sounds like a dark novel, it’s not. In fact, it’s refreshingly light and witty for dealing with such heavy themes. The chatty first person narrative is augmented by historically-accurate journals, diaries, and slave narratives. Avery is a sweet, self-deprecating narrator, at the cusp of a midlife crisis, with a bit of a martyr complex—not the usual protagonist of paranormal fiction. In fact, Currier’s full characterizations make the novel seem less like a ghost story and more like a comedy of manners. The diversity of the cast and the variety of spiritual traditions explored – from Catholicism, Voodoo, and New Age – never seems forced. The ghostly occurrences have an ethereal quality to them. The bright, hopeful tone of the prose, and Currier’s love for his imperfect characters makes this a charming read.
—— THE WOLF AT THE DOOR
by Jameson Currier Chelsea Station Editions
Paperback, $16, 275p