Jee reviews ‘Last One Out Shut Off The Lights’ by Stephanie Soileau @SMSoileau! Come check out this stunning collection of short stories and enter the giveaway to win a copy for yourself! @littlebrown #bookreview #shortstories #giveaway #debut #fiction #Louisiana

Title/Author: Last One Out Shut Off the Lights by Stephanie Soileau

Publisher: Little Brown & Company

Pages: 256

In a nutshell:

Last One Out Shut Off the Lights is an evocative portrait of the last-chance towns of southwest Louisiana, where oil development, industrial pollution, dying wetlands, and the ever-present threat of devastating hurricanes have eroded their inhabitants’ sense of home. These eleven piercing stories feature indelible characters struggling to find a foothold in a world that is forever washing out from under them, people who must reckon with their ambivalence about belonging to a place so continually in flux.

In a collection whose resonant echoes abound, we meet a reluctant teenage mother who stows her baby in a closet to steal a night out; a spiteful retiree who sabotages his neighbor in the wake of a hurricane; a Pentecostal singer in a children’s theater company who confronts the cultish leader of her troupe; a community of elderly Cajuns who conspire with a family of Sudanese immigrants to hide an escaped cow from the authorities; and a desperate young woman who tries to drag her brother to Mexico for surgery, determined to save his life and her own.

As Lauren Groff did for the state of Florida in her recent collection Florida, Stephanie Soileau demonstrates that Louisiana is as much a state of mind as it is a place on the map. A love letter to the Cajun language, life rhythms, and customs that still make the region unique, Last One Out Shut Off the Lights is also a powerful reminder of the treacherous escape routes that bedevil anyone longing to leave home, and the traps that remain for those who desire to return.

My verdict: Heartbreaking, at times, funny, honest stories of people living in a town marred by natural disasters, pollution and poverty.

My thoughts:

“Have you heard of the South?” You wisecrack about racists and mullets and singlewides and meth-addict cousins in prison and when he only blinks at you, you think, okay, maybe I ought to be done making these jokes.

Camera Obscura, pg 203

A collection of stories which takes us to the town of Louisiana, US, a place stricken by pollution, poverty and natural disasters, and into the lives of ordinary people whose stories of hope and despair, love and loss, survival and desperation will leave you aching for them.

Who are the people living in Louisiana known for its pollution and poverty? How do they live? What happens to their lives after a catastrophe? Why are they still there? How do they move on? Do they move on at all? What about those who have left? Do they assimilate to their new place? Are they held back by what they left behind? Or are they stuck like Deana (The Ranger Queen of Sulphur) who ‘was accomplishing exactly nothing, going exactly nowhere; that she would never type or drive or toke her way out of this place that pinned her like a boulder on her toe, that could only be named after the stink it produced.’

I rarely ever read an entire short story collection, but I ended up finishing this and liking it more than I thought I would! I absolutely loved reading 8 of its 11 stories! These were my favorites:

‘So This Is Permanence’ : a pregnant teenage mother struggling to come to terms with being a mother,

‘An Attachment Theory’ : a single mother moved out from her parents’ overcrowded home to settle in a trailer home with her daughter,

‘The Ranger Queen of Sulphur’ : a young woman desperately wanted to get out of Sulphur, finally found the push when her obese brother needed a surgery,

‘Poke Salad’: a lonely plant retiree, whose son rarely ever visited him,

‘The Whiskey Business’ : a high school girl raped by a boy whose wealthy family kept him from being expelled from school, not from rape, which nobody knew of except the victim and her friends, but from drug use,

‘Haguillory’ : a man still pained by the destruction of Hurricane Rita made on his home, let out his frustration on his crabbing trip with his wife,

‘Camera Obscura’ : a teacher with a terminally ill husband, who was attracted to another man,

and my favorite, ‘The Boucherie’ : a cow, which escaped a livestock trailer due to an accident, was slaughtered by some elderly Cajuns out of desperation.

‘Mr. A’ was about a teacher who took advantage of his student sickened me too much to ‘enjoy’ it. There were two, I found, broke the flow of the story, but didn’t deter me from enjoying the collection in its entirety.

Written with lots of heart and empathy, this collection about people trying to find a sense of belonging, who are struggling to love a place they try to call home, is both funny yet heartbreaking, desperate yet hopeful, and is sure to find its way into your heart.

And here’s the part I’m most excited about…..

You get to WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK! Just post a comment below! (Winner will be randomly chosen. Ends Aug 22, 2020. *US only.)

Thank you, Jessica Chun and Little Brown & Co for giving me the chance to read and review this fantastic book and your generosity in hosting this fantastic giveaway!

I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.

Have you read this book? If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!

17 Comments Add yours

  1. nsfordwriter says:

    Great review Jee πŸ™‚ I don’t know anything about Louisiana but it sounds like this collection really got a sense of place. (Don’t count me in the giveaway, you know I’m not in the US)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, NS! πŸ’•πŸ’•Yes I’ve never been to Louisiana but this book took me there! Noted on the giveaway πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That title is so fitting! πŸ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I totally agree with you, Shatarupa!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rae Longest says:

    Because Louisiana is my right hand neighbor, (I live 30 miles south of Houston on the Texas Gulf Coast) I’d love to read this one. Great review (as I have come to expect from you. LOL) I’ve heard of this book before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Rae! And thank you for participating πŸ™‚ I hope you’d win this copy and get to read this too! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Jee Wan says:

      Congratulations, Rae! You won the giveaway! πŸ’•πŸ’ƒπŸ»Could you email me your mailing address please? Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rae Longest says:

        WOW!!! Second time in my life I’ve won ANYTHING1 THANKS!!!
        4870 Somerset Court/Alvin, Texas 77511
        On hurricane watch tonight and tomorrow–two storms in the Gulf at one time is something we’ve never had before. Looking for some flooding.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        Omg sorry to know that! Stay safe, my friend! Take care! Sending positive thoughts your way!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Rae Longest says:

        We need them Hurricane Laura is headed our way.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Jee Wan says:

        Take care, my friend πŸ’• Stay safe πŸ™πŸΌ

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This one has been on my radar, Jee, and it sounds like one I’d enjoy with its human stories! Fab review, Jee! ❀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! Yes I really enjoyed this! πŸ™‚

      Like

  5. This sounds like a wonderful collection of short stories that really shows some stunning stories set in Louisiana. I’m glad that so many of them are actually really good. It’s so rare for collections to work that well! Great review, Jee! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Lashaan! Yes I agree with you it’s rare to find short stories which gel well together in a collection πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. FearlessDonna says:

    Another wonderful review Jee! πŸ™ŒπŸ» I’m like you, I don’t read many short story collections (unless it’s Nora Ephron!). But this sounds really good, especially since I’ve visited Louisiana and the state and culture have always fascinated me.

    Like

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Donna! And thank you for stopping by πŸ˜€ oooh I’ve not heard of Nora Ephron. I’m gonna have to check her out now! Thank you for sharing and thank you once again for stopping by 😘πŸ₯°

      Like

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