No Place, Louisiana

by Martin Pousson

Let's do a little word association, nothing complicated (at least
not yet). What do you think of when you hear the word..."cajun"?
The immediate connections, in no particular order, are: spicy food
(and if you thought "BAMM!!!" shame on you), fiddle music, and
French. Martin Pousson thoroughly demonstrates in NO PLACE,
LOUISIANA that, as with most things, it's a bit more complicated
than that.

Pousson, a teacher in the writing program at Rutgers University, is
a transplanted Arcadian. It is a given that he would know his topic
well; the variable is whether he can translate it to the printed
page. The answer is a resounding "yes." NO PLACE, LOUISIANA has no
heroes; it is a stark portrait of familial relationships and naked
ambition. Everyone gets what they want, but no one is happy. Far
from it.

Nita Morrow is a 16-year-old living in Jennings, Louisiana (a place
that people move from, as opposed to move to) working as a waitress
in a diner, already feeling trapped in her skin, in her life. When
she goes on a blind date with Louis Toussaint, she is singularly
unimpressed by everything about him, but for one thing: he has
ambition. It is his ambition that enables him to have his own car,
purchased with a good job in a town larger than Jennings. To Nita,
who has never traveled more than a few minutes away from Jennings,
he is her ticket out. When he abruptly asks her to marry him, she
immediately accepts --- but feels little more than regret

NO PLACE, LOUISIANA tells a familiar tale set in unfamiliar
surroundings. Nita is never satisfied, not with a succession of
larger homes, bigger cars, children; Toussaint is unable to express
his feelings, his passion, for Nita to her, except on the most
rudimentary level, and then with such clumsiness that his good
intentions go astray. They ultimately each express themselves to
the other using their children as surrogates. There is something
dark and unspoken here; Pousson never casts sunlight on it, and
barely infers that there is anything untoward going on, though it
gradually becomes clear that there is something very, very wrong

Pousson also quite masterfully covers almost 20 years in under 300
pages. Nothing, however, seems to be left out. The reader knows
everything that needs to be known. What is obvious, from
practically the opening sentences of NO PLACE, LOUISIANA, is that
there is a train wreck coming. We see the wheelbolts mismatched,
come together, then come apart. The only question is where the
disaster will occur, and whom it will affect most directly.

Pousson has written a strong, confident novel that undoubtedly will
not get the attention it deserves, at least not immediately. This
is unfortunate; many veteran authors have yet to write a novel of
this depth. Pousson, and NO WHERE, LOUISIANA, are too good to
languish in obscurity for long.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

No Place, Louisiana
by Martin Pousson

  • Publication Date: March 18, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 1573222003
  • ISBN-13: 9781573222006