Time and again, Ruffin constructs a life’s history in the space of a page or two. His skill as a writer and his birthright as a New Orleanian equip him for the task ... Ruffin draws particular attention to ragged, flawed and unexpected relationships ... For all of Ruffin’s clear literary homages and influences, there are also, I sense, musical structures embedded in these intimate, often playful stories ... A sense of controlled improvisation allows him to lay claim to his city without resorting to either satire or pseudonym. It makes his book achingly truthful and incredibly accessible ... Ruffin knows that sometimes simply telling the truth isn’t enough to make a world familiar. It takes a chorus of stories, chaotic and loving, to bring a city to life. In this penetrating and energetic collection, as in the city it honors, the rhythm is as important as the details.
Ruffin writes with the clipped motion of the best comic books, and the unsparing tenderness of a poet. Readers enamored with the relentless lyricism of his novel may be surprised to find a gentler voice guiding these stories, without judgment. This softness is exactly what binds these patchwork chronicles into a vibrant and true mosaic of a place. I was occasionally disappointed whenever the lives of these characters moved in the expected direction, but who can truly resist the domineering forces pushing our trajectories along their course?
Ruffin effectively shows the reader the unseen and their ghosts. By seeing these characters, we can capture a glimpse of them, of their lives. We can empathize and understand their world a little better, and our world, too. In so many of Ruffin’s stories, we see the unseen, and what they are trying to do, but their generations, our generations, must talk to each other, must communicate. There is no better way to understand each other’s actions than hearing what is said from the ghosts in our lives, and in his collection, Ruffin tries to give the unseen as much of a spotlight as he can, and he tries to give their ghosts as much of a voice as he can. But hearing them, and seeing them, is up to us, as readers, as peoples.