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Madame Lilly, Voodoo Priestess
Ah, New Orleans-The Big Easy. Site of the annual Mardi Gras festival and a proud city that has much to offer and has endured many hardships. Perhaps the most recent and memorable tragedy was Hurricane Katrina-devastating the historic town that has the unfortunate elevation of five feet below sea level.
Still, New Orleans endures. This aspect of its make up perhaps is the reason it is such a great setting for stories that are rife with conflict, pain and suffering, but, most of all, with characters that share this fortitude within their own constitution. As we read, we are inspired by these people that will not go quietly into the night-that are determined to prevail and to rise above those that would suppress them and deny them their very innate human rights.
Another aspect of New Orleans that gives it a dimension of mysticism and horror, is the practice of Voodoo. Many of us do not understand its complexities and are therefore fearful of the unknown. We are reminded of films such as The Serpent and The Rainbow or The Skeleton Key, where the powers of Voodoo can and will be invoked to summon dark magic and curse those that have wronged others.
Madame Lilly, Voodoo Priestess is the story of Odara, a woman of mixed heritage: having a Creole mother and a wealthy French father. The time is the latter half of the 19th century, when women (and especially women of color) had no rights in society. Odara's father arranges a marriage between her and Henry Nicolas (a wealthy Frenchman and business partner to Odara's father).
Soon, Odara realizes the true nature of Henry. His abusive tendencies and violent sexual desires are but symptoms of a greatly disturbed and tormented soul. Without recourse to seek sanctuary from the wicked man to whom she has been betrothed, Odara is left to wallow in a life of misery and despair. Ultimately at her wits end, she turns to learning Voodoo as her only possible salvation.
But salvation of body and salvation of one's soul are two completely different things. Now transformed to Madame Lilly, Odara's innocence is lost. Revenge is a path of destruction and corruption. What will become of her now?
For a long short story or a short novella, Madame Lilly, Voodoo Priestess is well worth the reader's time and effort. Understanding that the confined duration of this tale limits the amount of detail that can be rendered, it is evident that there could be much more to this story. The set up and character building for Odara is well done, however, the transition to Voodoo Priestess culminating in the climatic scene is rather abrupt, leaving the reader wanting more of the interim period. Still, the ending suggests that we might have more in store for Madame Lilly in future stories, perhaps of a serialized nature.
Until that time, we are left longing for more...