It’s very rare that I read an entire novel in a single day, and even rarer when I finish an entire book in one sitting. And yet, this past weekend, I found myself doing just that – Tom Cooper’s “The Marauders” is a fast-paced, wickedly-fun adventure into the marshes of Louisiana, and I just couldn’t put it down.
Cooper introduces a myriad of characters that, at first, seem to have no connection whatsoever. The Toup twins run a large marijuana operation off of a secret ganja-oasis in the middle of the Barataria swamp. Lindquist, a worn-down shrimper, obsesses over hidden pirate treasure as he pops prescription pills and pines for his ex-wife. Cosgrove’s drunken and disorderly conduct after his father’s funeral leads him to connect with a bizarre, yet charming, n’er-do-well that completely changes his life. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Wes struggles with his relationship with his father and his impending future. The only real commonality? They’re all connected to the fate of southern Louisiana, which has been ravaged by the hurricanes and oil spills.
While their individual storylines may seem unrelated, all of these characters become intricately entwined as the story progresses, and their colorful personalities quickly become endearing.
The elaborate and tangled web that Cooper weaves plays second fiddle only to the backdrop of the story – the Barataria itself. Cooper uses his words like a paintbrush to create a realistic likeness of life in Louisiana: hard and gritty, but beautiful all the same. It becomes increasingly obvious that Cooper not only lives in the south, but loves the south, and he portrays it with the detail and gusto that could only come with true life experience.
Meanwhile, the humor in this novel, stemming most directly from the tales of Lindquist and Cosgrove, is witty and sardonic, fitting perfectly with the grim outlook for the citizens of the Barataria while managing to shed glimpses of light in dark situations. The knock-knock jokes of Lindquist, for example, show that even while a man is struggling, addicted, manic, and distanced from his wife and daughter, he may still have the strength to muster a simple smile. The post-Katrina world in Louisiana is no picnic, and Cooper doesn’t go out of his way to sugarcoat that – yet another refreshing aspect of this novel – but simple, everyday moments (hopes, dreams, family, and perserverance) can make life tolerable, even in the toughest of situations.
With a great story, well-developed and sympathetic characters, and some light chuckles to guide you on your way, this novel would be a perfect way to kick off your summer.