Monday, July 29, 2013

"Nearer Home"

Born in Miami, Joy Castro is the author of The Truth Book: A Memoir (University of Nebraska), the literary thriller Hell or High Water (St. Martin’s), and the essay collection Island of Bones (University of Nebraska).

Castro applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Nearer Home, which is a sequel to Hell or High Water, and reported the following:
Page 69 quietly suggests several issues that are important in Nearer Home. It opens with the protagonist, Nola C├ęspedes, going for her usual morning run—which has become anything but routine:
When it’s time to run alongside the length of Audubon Park on St. Charles, I watch for suspicious lurkers. A few joggers run in pairs on the asphalt track. I stick to the sidewalk.
Nola is cautious because she discovered, on her usual run only the day before, a dead body in Audubon Park. And it was someone she knew: her former journalism professor at Tulane. Even though she’s been working the crime beat at the Times-Picayune for a year, Nola is still shaken. Audubon Park and St. Charles are high-end areas of New Orleans; middle-class white people who play by the rules, like her professor, are supposed to be safe there. Nearer Home takes that assumption apart.

It’s also telling that Nola, unlike the joggers who run together in pairs, runs alone. Hell or High Water established her as a lone wolf, and though she’s opening up a bit in Nearer Home, she’s still fundamentally on her own.

In the next paragraph, another key issue arises:
Sweat soaked, I get home and let myself into the silent apartment, reveling in the double shower heads and ample water pressure of Soline’s walk-in shower.
Nola has been subletting from Soline, her wealthy friend, because of the sluggish post-Katrina housing market. As a girl who grew up in the projects, Nola loves the unaccustomed luxuries, but she can’t quite get used to them. For her, there’s a psychological tension between calling it “home” and the fact that it’s still “Soline’s.”
Once I’m dressed for work—black blouse, red skirt—I call Senator Claiborne’s office for an interview. I give my press credentials, leaving out the fact that my usual beat is crime.
Here we see Nola dressing in characteristically dramatic colors. Then she calls the senator whose information has turned up on the dead professor’s computer. The fact that Nola deliberately fails to mention her position as a crime reporter is typical; she’s not above lies of omission, or worse, to get her story. In fact, she tells the secretary that she plans “to write a positive profile, a feature in preparation for his 2010 campaign.”

Because Senator Claiborne’s secretary is reluctant to schedule the interview, the rest of the page consists of Nola’s attempts to sweet-talk her way in the door—which she ultimately succeeds in doing. Very typical Nola.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Castro’s website and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Hell or High Water.

Writers Read: Joy Castro (July 2012).

Writers Read: Joy Castro.

--Marshal Zeringue