Nine Lives by Dan Baum

nine-livesNine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum (February 10, 2009, Spiegel & Grau), 319 pages

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans tells the story of New Orleans through the stories of nine people over 40 years, bracketed by two hurricanes — from 1965’s Betsy to 2005’s Katrina.

From the cover: “These nine lives are windows into every strata of one of the most complex and fascinating cities in the world. From outsider artists and Mardi Gras Kings to jazz-playing coroners and transsexual barkeeps, these lives are possible only in New Orleans, but the city that nurtures them is also, from the beginning, a city haunted by the possibility of disaster. All their stories converge in the storm, where some characters rise to acts of heroism and others sink to the bottom.”

I was drawn into this book before I reached the numbered pages. The brief About This Book section was enough. Some of the characters’ lives touch, but for the most part they remain separate. I quite enjoyed the reading until the narrative reached August 2005. Then, I was anxious. Sad. The book’s hooks were in me, though. Which felt kind of heart-wrenching. Nine Lives is not nearly so sad as it could be. It’s not as sad as I expected it to be. These stories are hopeful. I love how the vibrant New Orleans culture shines on these pages.

Throughout, I enjoyed Baum’s writing. The lives of the nine come off the page, candid, alive.

I visited New Orleans in 1998, and I was entranced.

One wish Nine Lives left unfulfilled: A map of the city and its parishes and wards.

Baum is a former staff writer for The New Yorker. The author’s website and blog.

Other reviews of this book:
The Persistence of Vision
(Let me know if I missed yours.)

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


6 responses to “Nine Lives by Dan Baum

  1. I think this is the first review I’ve seen of this book. I can’t wait to read it.

  2. thank you so much for your lovely review of “Nine Lives.” i really appreciate it.

  3. I love this book. I’m in my second reading. NOLA is one of my favorite places on Earth and I’ve been able to go down there several times since K. This book really captures the city and it’s natives. I’m not sure people really understand New Orleanians unless they’ve been there – it appears that Baum really does.

  4. Pingback: Book Review ~ Nine Lives: Life and Death In New Orleans, by Dan Baum | Linus's Blanket

  5. Pingback: City of Refuge by Tom Piazza « Word Lily

  6. Pingback: My best 2009 reads « Word Lily

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