Books: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

I picked this one up off a shelf at Barnes and Noble because my daughter's name is Evangeline. After reading the book flap, it sounded intriguing enough to give it a try. And I'm glad I did.

This one was difficult for me to put down, possibly because it hit so many of my sweet spots. It's a mystery, has a paranormal element, and is set in my home stomping grounds of the Louisiana swamps and antebellum glamor.

The story is of Charlotte "Charlie" Cates, a single mother who has just lost her four-year-old son. His death has triggered prophetic dreams in which young children seek Charlie's help. When she's given the chance to go down to Louisiana to do a story on a cold case disappearance, one of these dreams prompts her to accept. [Aside: between this and The Lake House, I seem to have a cold case/child disappearance thing going. But the two books pair really nicely.]

There is the fish-out-of-water element of a New Englander navigating the South. (I myself am a Southerner who lived for years in New England, so . . .) Young does a decent job with it, and doesn't go too far with the dialect spellings, giving just enough to allow readers to hear it mentally. Meanwhile, the book is also populated with interesting characters.

Though I predicted most of the revelations early on, the twisty-turny journey of the story kept me turning pages. Things move at a good clip, yet Young doesn't sacrifice detail for plot. It's a nice balance of beautiful prose and pacing.

The only thing that felt somewhat overdone—the one thing that drew attention to itself—was the argument for faith and God and religion. Now, Charlie isn't religious, and it's true that down South one is likely to run into and deal with a lot of people who are. But this book felt the need to explore that a bit too much in that it detoured into that discussion a tad too often. It left me half wondering if the novel had originally been written for the Christian market.

But overall this is a really compelling read. It's one of those books that I'm sorry to see end, one that will be difficult to follow.

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