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The Gar Diaries is an unforgettably unique and timeless memoir which will surely come to be ranked as an American classic.

The Gar Diaries By Louis E. Bourgeois

Gar_diaries-smSet in southern Louisiana in the 1970s, it tells the story of boy-child Lucas Jeanfreaux through creative snap-shot diary entries and flashbacks. Taking place over a time span of 30 years, it sees Lucas move from a four-year-old boy with his earliest memories, through his adolescent years and into a cynical, mature man on the cusp of fame. A key thread of the book is how he tries to re-invent himself through poetry after losing an arm. The prose slowly allows his tragic life to unfold and emerge, drawing readers both to particularly important moments and characters that shaped it and the social circumstances that constrained it.

Central to the book’s appeal is its sense of place and social set-up. The life Lucas grows up in is a Louisiana of marshy bayous and polluted canals. It depicts a troubled working-class community full of hardship, raw poverty and misery.

Indeed, the book’s title is symbolic of the sort of hand-to-mouth existence that prevailed. The ‘gar’ was and is considered a trash fish, caught among the poor and working classes, such as Lucas’s father. One of Lucas’s earliest memories is being terrified of one of the dead beasts. In a similar vein, the book also covers crabbing and shrimping, can collecting and cockroach eating. It’s a world where rabid dogs run in the street, and children swim in dirty ditches. It also shows a universe where men routinely beat their wives and take drugs in front of their children. The poverty is raw – so too the inequality, disability, substance abuse and broken family life.

Much of the content is troubling, dark and disturbing and leaves you wondering how anyone could have survived it unscathed. Indeed, the book is largely about wounds—emotional, psychological and physical—and whether it is ever possible for them to heal. Most importantly, this book is about being an outcast, and survival.

It is far from all bleak, however. Much of the book is warm, bringing real life to the people and landscape that is Louisiana. The prose is hauntingly beautiful—evocative, poetic and brutal at the same time. Indeed, author Louis E. Bourgeois initially intended the book to be a poem, but then the narrative took over. With much of it told through a child’s eye, it is often full of refreshingly simple and vivid detail: “We ate popcorn from heated tin plates, drank hot root beer from yellow cans, and sang Christmas songs even though it was early September.”

Containing plenty of good and evil, this is truly an original classic with powerful imagery. It will forever be associated with Louisiana and will re-shape a reader’s perception of the southern state. It will also stay in the reader’s mind for years to come.

The Gar Diaries By Louis E. Bourgeois is available now, published by The Other Publishing Company. Visit: otherpublishingcompany.com

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