In 1913, David Walker lived with his Gramps, his Mama, his Papa and his Catahoula Hound, Huck, “obedient only to David.” in one moment along the Pigs trail, while David is duck hunting with his grandpa’s wartime Sharps .22 rifle, his life changes dramatically. He kills a white man, and the fact it is in self-defense will not help him. Throughout this novel, that takes us from 1913 Port Barre, Louisiana to a remote improvised camp near a lake, to a farm near Jefferson, Texas, to many years in Shreveport Louisiana, David makes choices, learns skills and meets people who shape his future, but none of this changes his fundamental nature honed by his loving upbringing. I want so badly to tell this story from beginning to end, because Simonds’ is one of those authors who captures character, dialogue and dialect, nature and cityscapes, periods in history and why people do things we do not understand so beautifully. Her subplots are equally rich. But saying more would require so many spoilers, so I will just include some random quotes below and tell you that Stork Bite is a lovely, lovely book with more than one “can’t put it down” story. I bought it to do this review justice. It is a book I will read again — soon.
“A wood stork started hanging around camp, and David named him Old Gourd because of his cobbed head. David didn’t know if Old Gourd hung around because he had taken a shine to the catfish offal David threw his way or if the old bird had been ostracized by a colony of storks that lived in a nearby myrtle.”
“The house and small barn were unpainted and badly weathered. The family appeared to be barely scratching out a living from the hard-packed earth, practically with their bare hands. David thought about how ungrudgingly Caddo Lake had supplied him, even in winter, and he wished he could load the Tatums into the pirogue and take them to his camp, where life was easy.”
“Jax pulled back a tarp behind the rear seat that covered cases of Canadian Club that Red’s men had loaded the night before. … ‘What’s all this?’ Mae asked when she climbed inside. ‘Medical supplies,’ Jax said. He winked and added, ‘Sometimes I gotta mix a little business with pleasure.'”
“The Strand’s owners were happy enough to take her quarter at the box office, the same as if she were white too. But after that, Cargie was expected to enter an alley so narrow she had to squeeze between the wall and the steep iron staircase that a climbed the theater’s three-story wall. She was expected to climb the rickety steps while they rattled and squeaked in protest– feeling for all the world as if they were about to come off the wall — and take her seat in the upper balcony. Where the white folks wouldn’t have to look at her.”
“‘On a Saturday morning, … a warm Indian summer day a long time ago, a boy went hunting and never went home again.'”