So, here we are at last. At long, long, oh my god so long, last. The final book in the Landry series. The exercise in continuity futility that is Tarnished Gold. Does it lay any massive secrets at our feet? No, not really. Does it give us any great character insights that explain the motivations of people whom we have met later in their lives? Not a whole lot. Does it consistently use a different variation on the main character’s name than any time she’s been previously mentioned AND change her appearance? Yes! Yes it does.
So, first obvious things first. For the duration of these recaps, it’s Gabrielle. I’m not playing this Gabriel nonsense. And I will just say now before anyone gets their hopes up: we never actually see the Tom Sawyer moment where Gabrielle gets lovestruck boys to whitewash fences for her. It just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t even fit in consistently with the way her character is presented in this book. So there’s that. BOO. But okay, enough disclaimers, let’s do this.
Our story starts when little Gabrielle comes running though the SWAMPS to her shack, clutching a dead baby bird. She wants her mother to bring it back to life. Catherine, though nice about it, tells her daughter that she can’t do that. Gabrielle is disappointed in her mother’s magic and in her mother’s belief that the mother bird likely pushed the baby out of the nest since it was the runt (Gabrielle thinks that it tried to fly and fell). Gabrielle doesn’t believe that a mother would do that to her baby, but Catherine tells her that a mother has to do what’s best for her children, and sometimes that means giving one up so that the others can thrive. Gabrielle insists that she’d never give one of her babies away.
FORE–hey. Hey? Swamp Thing? Hey?
Well, um, it’s blatant foreshadowing, dude, that’s your thing.
Um…okay. Is something wrong?
You said it yourself. This is the last Landry book.
Yeah? And? …oh. Right. No swamps after this. Well…I mean, we both knew this was going to happen, right? It’s sort of inevitable. But look, I mean, we still have a whole book to go! And the Dollangangers, I mean…they’re in Virginia, right? Virginia has swamps.
Sure does. You don’t know that? Weren’t you like, a swamp scientist or something? Anyway. We’ll work it out, buddy. So, you wanna take your line?
Well done. Okay, anyway, so Gabrielle and Catherine are interrupted by Jack, who we learn (via Gabrielle) is drinking beer at like 8:30 in the morning and is very buff. Now…like I said on Facebook, I understand the need to describe one’s characters. I mean, when we met Jack he was an old decrepit guy living in a SWAMP, so we need to see him as he was in the past. And I also understand that it must be hard to have a seven-year old as your narrator just in general, much less when they’re describing someone. BE THAT AS IT MAY, I do not need to read a seven-year old describing her dad’s chest hair. Please and thank you no. Jack scolds Gabrielle for going out walking in the fields, telling her that there are snakes and alligators that could hurt her. Gabrielle sunnily tells her father that she did, in fact, step on a snake just that morning, but that she apologized to “Mr. Snake” and he just went back to sleep. Jack gets her to describe the snake and doesn’t believe her when she does, since she just described a cottonmouth. Guess that ability didn’t pass down to her grandkids, huh? Catherine calls Gabrielle a child of nature for a bit, then nags Jack to get a job, and tells Gabrielle that they can have a funeral for the baby bird. They do so, and Gabrielle swears once again that she would never throw one of her babies away.
TEN YEARS LATER
Gabrielle is walking home from school with her only two friends, Evelyn and Yvette, who are the daughters of her mother’s friends. Gabrielle is about as popular as her granddaughter Pearl will prove to be. Her classmates think she’s weird because she’s not afraid of the animals in the SWAMPS and because her mother is a healer. Now look. Everything we’ve been told about Catherine and her traiteur abilities is that they’re special and amazing and revered in the BAYOU. So now suddenly people think Gabrielle is weird because of it? And, maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t EVERYONE IN THIS TOWN LIVE IN A SWAMP?? I can get being a little weirded out if the girl’s constantly stepping on snakes and apologizing for it or riding around on the backs of alligators or something, but we’re told that the other girls look down on Gabrielle because she doesn’t scream when she sees a snake or a spider. How do they SURVIVE?? GAH. The boys spread rumors about Gabrielle and the animals (ew) because she never goes out with any of the guys in her class. It probably doesn’t help that when she turns them down, she says things like “I don’t think I would enjoy myself, thank you”. That’s a bit cold, Gabby. Evelyn and Yvette are both planning to get married soon after graduation (it’s mentioned that it’s 1944, so single men of their age group are scarce), and they can’t understand why Gabrielle isn’t thinking more about her future. Gabrielle deflects some conversation about a local guy who is into her and leaves Evelyn and Yvette to head home.
As she walks, she thinks about love and romance in general, and we learn that part of her reticence is due to the hot mess that is her parents’ marriage. Okay, that’s pretty understandable, actually. Jack thinks that Catherine’s put too many ideas in Gabrielle’s head about romance and that she needs to use her looks to catch a rich man. Her father mocks her for not wanting to do that (nice) and it’s apparently been the basis of more than one of her parents’ fights. Gabrielle remembers asking her mother why in the world she married Jack Landry and what we get from this bordering-on-weird conversation is that Jack was hot and Catherine was hot FOR him and that Gabrielle has never been hot for anyone. Well okay then. Gabs gets home to find her parents in the midst of another fight. Turns out that Jack spent all of Gabrielle’s dowry money on some snake oil concoction he bought off of a guy down at the bar. He gets a couple bucks out of Gabrielle, telling her that he’ll double it at cards, and leaves in his pirogue. Gabrielle goes inside and comforts her mother, helping her with dinner before leaving to go for a swim in her pond. (The pond is, I’m pretty sure, the same hidden place where Paul will later drown himself)
So, here we are then. We’re only 20 pages in and it’s already the Octavious scene. Let’s skim this one, okay? Gabrielle goes skinny-dipping and is sunning herself on a rock when she’s interrupted by Octavious, who dives into the water himself and ties Gabrielle’s canoe to his so that she can’t leave. He rambles for a while about his poor loveless marriage, and then he assaults Gabrielle. So see, prequels are generally the truth. He immediately apologizes and tries to act like nothing happened, and then flees. Gabrielle goes home, too scared of what might happen to tell her mother. She’s afraid of the fights that her father would get into and the shame it would bring to her family, and she’s sure that the local gossip would put all of the blame on her, so she decides to pretend that it never happened. She and her mother eat dinner and afterwards Catherine leaves to help a sick neighbor.
Shortly after that is the rehearsal for Gabrielle’s graduation. Much like her granddaughter Pearl after her, Gabby spends most of the time getting harassed by her so-called friends. Evelyn and Yvette give her a hard time about waiting around the BAYOU for a man, and when Gabrielle flushes, they assume that she’s got a secret boyfriend that she’s kept hidden from them. Gabrielle obviously can’t tell them the truth, so she tells them that she had sex with a ghost.
No, really. That’s what she tells them. She tells them that she was swimming in her pond when a handsome young man appeared, hypnotized her, they had sex, and when she woke up he’d vanished, leaving her a red rose. When she got home, her mother told her about a young man who had vanished into the SWAMPS years before and therefore Gabrielle had sex with a ghost. Not surprisingly Evelyn and Yvette are completely wigged out and Gabrielle makes them swear not to tell anyone. That night Catherine and Gabrielle have a nice conversation about love and sex, but Gabrielle is still too afraid to tell her mother what happened to her. The following morning is the graduation ceremony. Jack still hasn’t been home, but Gabrielle assures her mother that he wouldn’t miss her graduation. During the ceremony, Gabrielle is first saddened to see that her father isn’t there, and then has to deal with the fact that the Tates are sitting right in the front row and Octavious is staring at her. GOD THIS MAN. He is just a worthless piece of crap. There’s just nothing else to say. God I hate him. Why doesn’t he get eaten by alligators?
Gabrielle’s name is finally called, and as she gets up, she sees that Jack has arrived. Just as Gabrielle gets her diploma, Jack jumps up and yells “That there’s my daughter, the first Landry to graduate school!” and the crowd starts laughing. Between that and Octavious’ staring, Gabrielle starts to cry and runs off of the stage and into the school, hiding in a bathroom. A teacher, and then later her classmates and the principal all come in and tear into her, calling her irresponsible and telling her that she ruined everything. Get the fuck over it, it’s high school graduation. When someone yells that Gabrielle should have graduated with the animals instead of with them, she leaves and goes to find her parents. Jack can’t understand why Catherine is mad at him and just wants to get home to the party that they’ve planned. Fewer people attend than they expected, due to what Gabrielle did (once again: get over it, folks) but it’s still a good time. Jack gets ridiculous drunk of course, and passes out in a hammock at the end of the night. Catherine and Gabrielle talk after the guests leave, and Gabrielle once again almost tells her mother what happened, but once again she hesitates. Catherine goes to bed and Gabrielle sits alone on the porch, wishing that she could believe that things will get better. But she doesn’t.
Well that was cheerful, huh? Yikes. Coming up: Gabrielle discovers that she’s bringing a Paul into this world, Jack sells said Paul to the Tates, and Gabrielle moves into a tiny room in the Tates’ mansion. That’s…actually all that really happens in the next chapters, but I’ll try to make it interesting. See you then!