Local attorney Chris Johnson takes the reader on a suspenseful journey in his latest novel, set in Bay St. Louis.
- Story by Anne Pitre
Some readers might find that the book gets off to a slow start, but stick with it. The story is character-driven, so it’s necessary for the author to spend ample time describing each character and their backstories in order to advance the story in the end.
This is a book that will allude to past events and seemingly insignificant details that make a big difference to the breathtaking way in which the story unfolds. Take your time through the beginning and pay attention, as all will be revealed in a most remarkable way in the end.
Local readers will also be engaged with the setting of the book. Although no particular Bay St. Louis establishment is mentioned by name – other than the Hancock Whitney on Beach and Main and the Hancock County Courthouse – the reader can’t help but imagine the scenes taking place in our celebrated local businesses. The same goes for the scenes that take place in New Orleans. It’s up to the reader to infer an exact location, but the author sets you up to do just that through vivid descriptions of detail and atmosphere. You will literally taste the sweet tea and feel the balmy evening breezes of the French Quarter as the characters in the book experience it.
It’s also worth noting that both the supporting and main characters will surprise you, although at first, they may bring to mind stock personality types we all know. There is Sid Fortenberry, the quintessential frat boy who never grew out of that stage; Sammy Ward, who despite his best efforts, peaked in elementary school; and Captain Fleming, a salty old sailor who drinks and runs his mouth to excess, but is far more intelligent than he ever lets on.
Finally, of particular significance is the title itself, “Pearls.” The pearl has an obvious meaning in the end of the story, but it is also deeply symbolic as it applies to all characters. Everyone - even those with a small part in the story - has overcome a challenge. Some were small and only mildly inconvenient, while others were profoundly tragic, becoming the type of formative experiences that defined who they are.
These challenges are to the characters like those tiny grains of sand that irritate the oyster. Like the oyster, these dear characters protected themselves, coating those painful experiences with layers and layers of nacre until they formed a beautiful, valuable gem. Some gems were used for good, others were put to more nefarious uses. But in each case they make the reader appreciate the characters for their individual complexities, their flaws and their greatness.
Overall, “Pearls” is a must-read for the summer, well worth the time invested. It is now available at most local booksellers, including Bay St. Louis’ own Bay Books, which will host a book signing with Chris Johnson during Second Saturday on July 11 from 4 - 5:30 pm.
We are hopeful and eager for Johnson’s next release.