The Reverend Corina Youngblood, minister of the African Spiritual Church of Mercy, is a woman powered by Jesus and the santos. Her corner store, St. Jude Lamb of Light Botanica, which caters to the eclectic religious and spiritual needs of New Orleans, is threatened by her Cuban ex-lover and mentor Elroy Delgago's plans to open a K-mart-like Superbotanica nearby. Gus Houston, a displaced former army officer now ersatz chaplain at an exclusive girl's school, stumbles into Corina's store, discovers her mesmerizing ...
The Reverend Corina Youngblood, minister of the African Spiritual Church of Mercy, is a woman powered by Jesus and the santos. Her corner store, St. Jude Lamb of Light Botanica, which caters to the eclectic religious and spiritual needs of New Orleans, is threatened by her Cuban ex-lover and mentor Elroy Delgago's plans to open a K-mart-like Superbotanica nearby. Gus Houston, a displaced former army officer now ersatz chaplain at an exclusive girl's school, stumbles into Corina's store, discovers her mesmerizing powers, and strikes up a profitable and prophetic relationship, sending Corina his troubled students for consultation. When Gus hits on the idea of entering the wealthy white girls into the gospel singing competition during the Jazzfest, he triggers a series of events that has all sides evoking the spirits for good and ill. Davis combines religion, voodoo, New Age philosophy, and good old-fashioned capitalism, greed, envy and a host of other unsavory motives in his entertaining first novel.
First-time novelist Davis captures the essence of New Orleans with a blend of voodoo, gangsters and, of course, plenty of jazz and gospel music. Corina Youngblood is a self-styled black priestess whose freewheeling but stern spiritual readings have earned her a formidable reputation in the community. But Youngblood faces stiff competition from the Delgado brothers, Cuban immigrants who want to commercialize voodoo-related products by opening a chain of stores called SuperBotanicas. To help them along, the Delgados turn to a corrupt local politician named Joe Dell Prince, who provides the environmental permit they need as he pumps up his own visibility for a run at the governor's office. But if the Delgados have Prince, Corina has Gus Houston in her corner, a chaplain at Miss Angelique's Academy for Young Ladies who lied his way into the job (his "last meaningful employment had been night manager at a Tennessee theme park") because he was smitten with the headmaster. In an effort to get the privileged, petulant teenagers out of his hair, Houston starts referring them to Corina, who's soon raking it in. She also inspires Gus to organize the girls into a gospel choir, setting the stage for a climax filled with mayhem at the New Orleans Jazzfest. Davis nails the complicated racial and religious stew that makes up bayou culture, and his witty, fast style perfectly complements the clever premise. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A lighthearted but spicy bouillabaisse, New Orleans-set, by Texas journalist Davis (American Voudou, not reviewed). Corina Youngblood may never have made it through divinity school, but she's a bona fide priestess of santeria, the African mélange of Christianity and animism that arrived with the slaves and still survives. The proprietress of a small botanica in New Orleans, Corina dispenses spiritual advice and herbal remedies to her modest but loyal clientele who come to her with complaints about everything from their teeth to their love lives. It's not a gold mine, of course, but Corina gets by-until the Delgado brothers try to run her out of business. Cuban immigrants with oversized egos and ambitions to match, Elroy and Julio Delgado have come up with the idea of launching a SuperBotanica ("a Wal-Mart of spiritual supplies"), and the site they've chosen is just a few blocks from Corina. She has to branch out, fast, or she'll be undersold within a year. Fortunately, Corina has just made the acquaintance of Gus Houston, chaplain of Miss Angelique's Academy for Young Ladies in the ultra-posh Garden District. Not much of a preacher (he was never ordained and has barely read the Bible), Gus sits in his office all day, listening miserably to the complaints of spoiled rich teenagers. In desperation one day he refers one of his whining charges to Corina, who solves the girl's problems in half an hour and works out a referral scheme with Gus. Soon white debutantes are streaming through Corina's door in search of spiritual enlightenment, and she's running in the black for the first time in years. Gus, more popular at school than ever, begins sleeping with the headmistress and organizes a Gospelchoir that performs in the New Orleans Jazzfest. Still, though, the problems with the Delgado brothers haven't gone away. In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor or John Gregory Toole: a welcome romp, told in an old-fashioned style and with traditional southern charm.
Rod Davis is an award-winning author and journalist whose work has appeared in numerous publications. He has served on the senior staff of several major magazines, including a stint as editor of The Texas Observer. He taught writing at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University and was a guest at the Yaddo Colony. He is author of American Voudou: Journey into a Hidden World (UNT Press). His work is included in David Byrne’s True Stories (Penguin) and Best American Travel Writing 2002 (Houghton-Mifflin). An eighth-generation Texan, he lives in San Antonio.