This unique novel requires a suspension of judgment, a willingness to imagine an active spirit world that exists beyond the parameters of what can be seen. It all begins in 1891 New Orleans, when a number of Sicilian prisoners are lynched by a crazed mob. Soon after, the one-year-old son of one of the victims appears to be possessed of a demon.
A number of people converge around the baby’s crib, each playing a critical role in the exorcism of this malevolent spirit: Baptist minister Noonday Morningstar; newspaper reporter Marshall Trumbo; Beauregard Church, a guard at the prison; local “witchdoctor” Dr. Jack; young jazz innovator Buddy Bolden; and Typhus and Diphtheria Morningstar, two of the minister’s children.
Not everyone survives that night or the release of an unruly spirit who will haunt the lives of the Morningstar family, as well as other assorted characters - an ancient voudou mambo, Malvinia; Dr. Jack, who cures working girls of troublesome burdens; even Marcus Nobody Special, who spends his days angling for a particular catfish. As the years pass, a heady cast of well-meaning miscreants are easily distracted by life’s problems, people all too familiar with poverty and the loss of dreams.
In a patchwork quilt of eccentric characters, the author leads a merry chase of misguided intentions, old sorrows and the consequences of communing with the dead. Bypassing the ordinary and predictable, this journey exposes the souls of those whose secrets haunt them, including the infant relieved of the demon: “In this city there is a long and curious relationship with death.”
Once unleashed, that spirit creates havoc and confusion, delivering bad deeds and haunting nightmares with abandon, especially among Morningstar’s children - Typhus, Diphtheria, Dropsy, Malaria and Cholera - all of whom are named after diseases. An argument could be made that the individual fates of such children might reflect their particular names.
Some tortured souls are released from humanity’s limitations. Others, like Buddy Bolden, are left to tread a weary path through unpredictable forces of dark and light. The tale culminates in the hurricane of 1906, when the lost are gathered together in a great homecoming. In magical prose, Maistros straddles both worlds, the living and the dead, in an amazing feat of spiritual and literary legerdemain.