Thursday, April 5, 2012
Muddy Bayou by Jessica Tastet
Raleigh Cheramie knows what normal is. Of course, she only gets to stare at it from a distance, but it doesn’t mean she can’t recognize it when she sees it.
Raleigh is the granddaughter of a traiteur, a Cajun folk healer. Even with her unusual genetic inheritance she could fall somewhere in the range of normal if she wouldn’t have the additional quirk of being traiteur to the dead.
It’s an ability she’d like to return to her ancestors until her sister and first cousin turn up missing. Now she must try to use her talent to find the living by connecting to the dead when she’d much rather figure out the attraction driving her crazy each time the detective on her sister’s case is nearby.
About the Author
An avid reader, Jessica Tastet began writing in the sixth grade. The result was a mystery story she promptly shared with all her family and whoever else she could convince to read it. Born and raised in Raceland, Louisiana, she uses the places and people of her childhood to create the backdrop of her fictional South Louisiana town in her Raleigh Cheramie series. Presently, she resides in her hometown with her two children where she surrounds herself with good books and family. Muddy Bayou is Jessica Tastet’s first book. She is currently working on the second book in the series, Muddy Grave.
You can follow Jessica at:
Read an excerpt here: http://www.jessicatastet.com/the-book/
On Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000095630495
On Twitter here: https://twitter.com/#!/JessicaTastet
Guest Post from the Author:
My first experience with a Louisiana traiteur was through a high school friend. This friend visited a male traiteur who was a friend of the family, and though I had not tagged along, he’d told her that I’d be crying over the break up with a boyfriend soon, but not to worry everything would turn out fine. I’d of course exclaimed that this was completely ridiculous. This traiteur didn’t even know me. This was my high school sweetheart, the guy I’d planned future children with after a big romantic wedding. I just knew we’d be together forever.
Predictably, within the month, boyfriend and I broke up. I did cry, but through my heartbreak a fascination with traiteurs emerged. I wanted to actually sit across from a traiteur and see whatever magic must exist within him or her, but I didn’t actually know a traiteur. Though I live in South Louisiana, there are not shops on the street advertising traiteurs within. They are difficult to find as it becomes another casualty of our dying culture. The opportunity finally presented itself in college when I proposed a story on traiteurs for a journalism class. I knew someone who knew a traiteur, and under the guise of interviewing her for a story, I could finally see one in person.
But because I was interviewing her for a story, the experience wasn’t magical like I’d imagined it. I’d built it up in my head only to feel disappointed, but it did leave me with the invaluable knowledge that would later prove important.
For a decade I’ve wanted to write a book set in South Louisiana that shows its unique culture. I didn’t want it to be what is usually portrayed about the culture though. Eventually after dismissing a few ideas that didn’t interest me thoroughly, I thought back to that high school fascination that I’d had with traiteurs. A fascination I’ve continued to this day. I began to play what if, and the character Raleigh Cheramie, traiteur to the dead, was born.
That interview of the traiteur proved invaluable. Traiteurs are the Cajun folk healers. Their ancient treatments are passed down through the opposite sex with a powerful reliance on prayer. The power is believed to be in their hands. I felt this heat myself in my own experience with a traiteur. My character Raleigh Chermaie’s ability is all her own, but a traiteur is a living, breathing part of South Louisiana culture. It is a culture that slowly disappears, but it still serves as my inspiration. Hopefully, I can share a little bit of it before it is gone.
Raleigh Cheramie bolted up in bed, head snapping forward, heart throbbing in her chest. Perspiration beaded over her body and her throat burned as if she’d gulped a shot of tequila from the bottle.
Family. Her Me’ Maw’s nagging voice sounded louder in her head. Me’ Maw was the traiteur, the community healer. Raleigh was just a freak of nature, healer to the dead as Me’ Maw affectionately nicknamed it.
Cassie frowned without glancing up from the paper. “Only murder, deceit, and Louisiana politicians. Good news doesn’t sell.”
She sighed. Her body had calmed its violent reaction, but its tiny seed had planted itself in her mind and it was acting like a honing device straight to the bayou.
Cheramie Lane was home to thirteen Creole or shotgun-style homes all belonging at some point in time to a Cheramie.
“Madison is the most important concern right now, and she is why I’m staying. You know, maybe if you had supported me eleven years ago, you wouldn’t be worrying about it coming back to bit you in the ass now.”
“The two of them have made a reputation for themselves…I guess he figured they might as well get paid for dancing on the bar since they were doing it already.”
“At eighteen Claudia began making her way through every married man who would stray, and of course this is the bayou, so many did.”
Raleigh smiled, squinting her eyes in a way she knew he’d recognize. “How would you like to be my date to see some naked women tonight?”
Was getting in trouble a skill? Raleigh would have listed it on her resume if she’d know.
Sitting on a bar stool watching the room was Eddie; Crazy as some called him after a motorcycle stunt he’d attempted in his youth. The stunt had left a burn scar on the left side of his face.
She signaled and drove back towards the canal. It was just as quiet as it had been on Tuesday morning. The same picturesque scene of the bayou that had cradled death within it awaited. It was the kind of scene they filmed for those movies that made South Louisianans all out to travel by pirogue, to wear white shrimp boots, and to speak in a language foreign to the rest of the world. Those were sights most of the locals never saw these days, and for the record, Raleigh had never worn shrimp boots.
Her dad and Uncle Camille were at it again. Uncle Camille’s pores were leaking alcohol…Her father was tense and scared…It was like putting two alligators together with only one snack.
Cassie leaned forward. “That was the strangest funeral I’ve ever attended, and I’m not even talking about me not being Catholic. Did you see the woman with the leopard dress, or the dude who thought he was a character from the movie Grease? Are you sure this was your relative?”
Father Lucas and Me’ Maw both believed that it was God who allowed her to see. Raleigh wasn’t always so certain. Did God have that much of a sense of humor?
Raleigh leaned in and gave her a stiff hug. It wasn’t exactly one of their specialties. “Thanks for coming. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
“Remind me why we do this again?” Me’ Maw smiled. “Takes the bitterness out. Can’t forget where you’re from child.” No chance of that. Anyone else would need a manual to visit the bayou. It was like coming to a foreign country and not speaking the language.
Raleigh leaned in closer to hear…who named children Summer and Winter anyway? You weren’t even supposed to capitalize seasons…She guessed she couldn’t say much since her mother had gotten their names from old Atlas lying about…
As she entered the kitchen six sets of eyes turned to greet her. Me’ Maw was the only one who smiled as she came further into the room. It was as if she’d walked into a séance and showed up instead of what they’d called.
Raleigh searched Me’ Maw’s pale face, Paw’s grim stare, and Uncle Camille’s vacant gaze. It only looked as though he’d brought the plague.
What is a Traiteur?
In the early days of South Louisiana when doctors were scarce, a traiteur or traiteuse attended to the aches and pains of his friends and neighbors. The remedies were not typical medicines, but rather holy water, candles and signs of the cross all mixed with secret prayers.
Muddy Bayou is a book that accurately depicts life on the bayou, but then it should. The author was born and bred on the bayou. Jessica Tastet brings you a story that is authentic, original, and leaves you anticipating the next adventures of Raleigh Cheramie.
The people on the bayou do not walk out of their front door and shoo the alligators from their front door steps. They do not hop in the pirogue and paddle their way to work. The people of the bayou are the normal, average people that you meet anywhere, along with a few eccentricities. Bayou people have been known to hold a grudge like nobody’s momma. And, if you are the least bit different (come from a different part of the parish -north of the Intracoastal Waterway, or heaven forbid – the country), chances are they will dislike you on the spot. And gossip; well let’s just say it was invented in bayou country. Long before the first telephone ever made its way into the sleepy bayous, it was tell-a-momma. Everyone in town knew you were there before you ever opened the car door.
With years of research under her belt, Jessica presents the reader with a story steeped deep in the traditions of the bayou, from a family legacy of traiteur to the deep seeded closeness of families and the conflicts between its members. She gives the reader a suspense-filled novel intertwined with small town politics as Raleigh uses her skill of connecting to the dying to locate her missing sister and solve the mystery of a classmate’s death years before. The story so closely depicts life on the bayou that the names could have been changed to protect the not so innocent.
Muddy Bayou will take you from the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the small fictitious bayou town of Barbeaux Bayou, Louisiana. You will be introduced to the people of the bayou and treated to a taste of the local folk lore, all while learning about the lazy way of life on the bayou where the water and family ties run deep. Where the need to blame and hate fester as deep in the soul as the oil rests deep in the earth.
From a technical standpoint, Muddy Bayou is a complete book. The plot is well-developed along with its colorful characters. The storyline captured my attention and held it throughout the book. The author used words that left implanted images in your mind allowing you to become part of the story; you could smell the bayou, see the moss swaying in the trees, and hear the music pounding in your ears. My guess is that this author is going to become a household name.
Giveaway! Author Jessica Tastet is giving away a copy of Muddy Bayou!
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Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.