Narrator: January LaVoy
Series: Charlie Cates #1
Published by Penguin Audio on September 1, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Southern Gothic
Length: 13 hrs 57 mins
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When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children in danger, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent. They are warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.
After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams, asking for her help, she finds herself entangled in a world-famous thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance with the estate’s landscape architect—the warm and handsome Noah Palmer—begin to heal her grief-stricken heart. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.
I feel like the Louisiana swamp where one of the pivotal scenes in the book takes place is a good comparison for the novel overall. It’s murky and meandering and full of scary things you can’t quiet see but you know are out there. There’s a lot going on, but it didn’t feel overly jumbles to me. Charlie has dreams of children that need help, and it has a paranormal/ghost story feel to it. There’s the cold case involving a missing child, and the Deveau family has lots of secrets, some that go back decades. Charlie also gets a chance at romance, all while she’s still grieving for her son. Young manages to keep it all together, though, doesn’t let the story ramble too much or get overly stuck in the subplots. I guess, really, there are no subplots – it all ties together in the end, it’s just getting there that sometimes seems like your paddling around and through and past dead ends and tree roots.
The Gates of Evangeline is a very atmospheric novel, spooky and lovely, a little how I picture New Orleans, actually. The setting and the tone of the novel fit well together.
Charlie got on my nerves a bit. She jumped to conclusions a little too quickly, and her sudden dreams were accepted a little too easily. Noah was maybe a bit too perfect- sexy, nice, hard-working, honest (maybe). Overall, the characters were well-done, though, well-rounded. Aside from perhaps Noah, they each have their own goals, secrets, fears. I especially liked the matriarch of the Deveau family. She’s dying of cancer and is far from innocent, but she’s interesting. Her kids have issues, but the standard “too rich for our own good problems” that I read about but don’t actually know anyone who suffers from.
The mystery was probably the weak point for me. I figured out the solution to the cold case, more or less, a bit too early. And Charlie’s dreams/visions were a bit too convenient with their clues.
I listened to the audio and was glad I did. LaVoy did an excellent job as narrator and I have to admit that I liked the regional tang to some of her voices. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the novel.
I guess this is the first in a trilogy. I’ll definitely read the next one and see how Charlie’s gift progresses. There are some faith questions woven into this one. How can God take a child? Can her visions be messages from God? Several characters in Evangeline have very deep faith, in spite of the difficulties in their lives and Charlie has trouble grasping that. If she believes in a God, she certainly does not believe He’s close or necessarily loving. It’s not about religion, but for Charlie, the questions seem true to who she is and what she’s been through.
In the meantime, I think I’ll have beignets for breakfast on Monday. We’re spending the week at Disney World and we’re staying at Port Orleans’ French Quarter, which just fits too nicely with having just finished this story.