Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book Review: "The Marauders" by Tom Cooper

"The Marauders" by Tom Cooper
First published in 2015
304 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
This gritty little oddball of a book, set in Louisiana during and after the BP oil spill, had promise but didn't quite come together for me. It was a fairly interesting story, but I was left wondering what the point was.

The Long Of It:
Five different stories and a handful of kooky characters come together in this quirky and slightly dark tale, which is set in a Louisiana bayou against the backdrop of the horrific BP oil spill of 2010.

Jeanette, Louisiana, is a small shrimping community on Barataria Bay. The swampy bay was once a hideout for pirate Jean Lafitte, and Lindquist -- one of our narrators -- has spent his life toting around his trusty metal detector and searching for the Lafitte's fabled buried treasure. He's the town outcast; not only is he hell-bent on finding gold, he's also missing an arm and is never without his Donald Duck Pez dispenser fully stocked with Oxycontin and Percocet.

We've also got Wes Trench, a 17-year-old who works on his father's shrimping boat and has a tragic Hurricane Katrina story; Cosgrove and Hanson, two hapless criminals who embark on a ridiculous money-making scheme; the Toup brothers, twins who've got a whole island in the bay covered in marijuana plants; and Brady Grimes of BP, who has the unenviable task of convincing Jeanette's residents to accept a meager settlement for their trouble rather than following through with a claim.

Unbeknownst to our motley cast of characters, their stories are all vaguely interconnected. Alligators, guns, drugs, prosthetic arm thefts, shrimping boats and pirate booty are involved.

Cooper's writing is readable, creative, funny and metaphor-filled, but -- though I read it quickly -- it was never quite a page-turner for me. And Cooper's characters seem a bit forced at times; they're maybe a bit too much the stereotypical quirky weirdos. "The Marauders" errs more on the side of a character-driven novel (and a setting-driven one), which I often struggle with because I want plot, purpose, meaning and resolution to my books. Cooper's cast held my attention, but I wanted a firm conclusion for our five disparate stories and I didn't feel I really got that.

For the first 3/4 of the book, I expected it to earn a solid 4 stars. But, while I could glimpse themes of family, forgiveness, belonging, home, sense of place, and tradition amongst the moronic antics of some of our characters, it just wasn't enough to satisfy me. Cooper did a really nice job of evoking a vivid setting and creating some intriguing nutcases, but I wanted more: more about their pasts and futures, more about the oil spill, more to show me why I should care about their stories, and more something to beef up the plot.

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