2016 Reading Challenge: Bayou

I’m late on the April Reading Challenge. I think I was late on last month’s challenge, too. In all honesty, I have revisions coming up, so there’s a good chance I’ll be late next time, too.  Let’s just embrace this as a thing, shall we? Henceforth (yes, I found an opportunity to use henceforth!) Reading Challenge posts will likely be early in the following month, rather than at the end of the month in which I read the book.

April’s Reading Challenge item was a graphic novel. I know I said I was going to read Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, but as I started looking into graphic novels, I discovered there are a lot of really cool and diverse ones out there. I picked something less mainstream, instead, and I’m glad I did.

bayou cover

I used to read Archie comics all the time as a kid, but I had never read a graphic novel before. For my very first graphic novel, I read Bayou by Jeremy Love. Mixing magical realism with dark themes and uncomfortably accurate historical and societal commentary, it takes place in 1933 Louisiana, near the Bayou. Right from the start, I knew this wasn’t going to be light-reading, in spite of the charming art style. The third page shows a sign reading “Colored entrance”, and a lynched man’s feet dangle into the frame. A crow sits on the entrance sign, and the reader also learns in the previous panel that the town is called Charon, like the ferryman of the Underworld in Greek mythology.

bayou entrance

The tale has a grim beginning worthy of the Underworld connection, too. The main character, a young girl named Lee, has to dive into the bayou to retrieve the body of Billy Glass, who was murdered for whistling at a white woman. Lee is the only one small enough to fit under the tree where his body is pinned. While under the water, she catches a glimpse of what she takes to be Billy’s soul, an apparition resembling him but with wings. Understandably shaken by the whole experience, Lee is reluctant to venture near the bayou again.

However, her friend Lily, who comes from a more affluent family, persuades her to run down to the bayou, and while they are there, a creepy hand reaches out of the water and snatches Lily’s necklace while both girls have their backs turned. Lee gets called home, and suggests she and Lily can look for it tomorrow. Later that night, Lily, fearing another beating at the hands of her mother, impulsively lies that Lee stole the necklace. It’s decided that Lee will work off the price of the necklace, but the next day Lily regrets her moment of weakness and heads to the bayou to search for the locket and make things right. Unfortunately, the creepy monster who stole her necklace shows up again, and turns out to be a giant with a surprisingly tiny head. In spite of this, he swallows her whole.

Lee and Lily

Lee and Lily

I won’t summarize the whole plot, but the rest of the book mingles the same combination of grittiness and paranormal. Lee undertakes a quest not only to save Lily, but also her father, who ends up imprisoned for Lily’s disappearance and suspected murder. She finds an intriguing ally in Bayou, another giant with formidable healing powers and a much more kindly attitude.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until I was finished that the copy of the book I picked up was only the first four chapters, so I am still in suspense as to how it ends. I’m curious to find out. I enjoyed Lee’s fierce determination, her friendship with Lily, and the devoted relationship she shares with her father. I also liked the character of Bayou, even though all the drawings of him were slightly off-putting to me because his eyes look hollow. It’s an interesting contrast; Bayou seems to be good, but looks frightening, and the villain, Cotton Eye Joe, is violent but looks like an overgrown little boy.


Lee and Bayou

Lily and Cotton Eye Joe

Lily and Cotton Eye Joe

For a first graphic novel, Bayou was a really interesting foray into discovering a new reading genre. Anyone else read graphic novels? Which ones would you recommend?


2016 Reading Challenge: 

  • A National Book Award winner– complete, Fifteen Dogs
  • One of Shakespeare’s plays– complete, Hamlet
  • A mystery – complete, And Then There Were None
  • A graphic novel – complete, Bayou
  • Book you haven’t read since high school
  • A book translated to your native language
  • Non-fiction about a subject you’ve been curious about
  • Book about or set within a culture you’re unfamiliar with
  • A book that’s at least 100 years older than you
  • Book in a genre you usually avoid
  • A classic novel
  • At least three poems

I’m not quite sure which one is next yet – I’ll post an update soon.

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