C. Morgan Babst’s debut novel draws its title from a Japanese phrase signifying ephemerality, but it doubles as a description of New Orleans after Katrina. As a fictional retelling thereof, the book has few superiors ... The author resists the temptation to turn her novel into a tract or advocacy—not that it lacks passion. To the contrary, the novel is very much of our irritable, harried times.
With a gripping yet deliberate narrative infused with vivid descriptions, Babst takes her time with this story, allowing it to build slowly and methodically with an appropriate weight, enhancing the confusion wrought by the storm. In contrast, Cora's point of view significantly intensifies the pace, lending an urgency to the novel and making her narrative feel almost cyclonic. A native of New Orleans who evacuated one day before Hurricane Katrina, Babst has an intimate understanding and knowledge of the region's people and rich culture, its topography and the complex forces of race and class. The result is in a timely debut novel about the power of nature and its omnipresent potential for destruction in every aspect of our lives.
Babst takes on the Herculean feat of describing the interior lives of her characters against a jumbled panorama of destruction so vast that no single photograph could ever encompass it ... The travails of Cora and Adelaide include more than one pressing mystery to be solved, and Babst is adept at building suspense. But at times she muffles the action with an accumulation of detail that appears forced...Add to that a dizzying array of flashbacks and dream sequences, and momentum flags. What's more, Babst brings the reader so close to her characters that intimacy periodically comes at the expense of basic logistics ... The Floating World shines spectacularly, however, when Joe's father Vincent Boisdoré comes into view.