Benoit, Brent 1974-
BENOIT, Brent 1974-
PERSONAL: Born 1974, in LA; married, wife's name Meredith; children: William Luc. Education: Graduate of Loyola University; Louisiana State University, M.F.A. (creative writing).
CAREER: Writer and home builder. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, writing instructor.
All Saints' Day ("Sewanee Writers" series), Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Brent Benoit is a Louisiana native who set his first novel, All Saints' Day, in the bayou town of Maringouin, Louisiana, a place that offers few options to its working-class inhabitants. They are either working at the Texaco oil refinery or at the sugar mill, where the manufacturing process spawns birth defects and cancers. All Saints' Day spans four generations of the Bueche family, centering on Ulysse "Russell" Bueche, a boy so badly beaten by his father as a child that he must wear blue-tinted glasses for the rest of his life. He is married to Doreen, a talented athlete whose promising softball career ended with the arrival of their three sons, Whitaker, and twins Ferdinand and Clayton. Ferdinand is bright from birth, but Clayton was born slow-witted, and this tragedy is compounded when at age two he causes Ferdinand's death in an accident. Doreen is diagnosed with breast cancer, yet while dealing with her illness and mourning a dead child she must also raise the boys alone while Russell is away for long periods of time. He is unable to cope with his problems and hopes to spare his family the violent temperament he fears he has inherited from his father by working on oil freighters in foreign waters. In the course of the story, Whitaker grows up and marries a young woman named Violet, and as the novel closes they announce that they will stay in Maringouin, seemingly ensuring that there is no hope for the family that has experienced so much tragedy.
In the Washington Post, Carolyn See described All Saints' Day as the story of "a generation caught between the passing of French as spoken communication and the advent of English; of a pastoral, poverty-stricken life set off by the grotesque presence of oil and chemical industries, of the kind of people most 'intellectuals' have never heard of, much less thought about. . . . The author here gives us a world of workers with bruised hearts, low expectations, and battered in every possible way by the production of oil and its derivatives." See noted that Benoit's ability to write about people like Russell and his family "makes him unique," and called All Saints' Day "as rare as it is authentic and original." Barbara Sutton, who reviewed the book in the New York Times Book Review, called it "an alluring alternative to the sweeping intergenerational saga." Commenting on the structure of the novel, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Benoit "tells his tale in a jagged narrative that weaves back and forth in time, slowly shading in the relations between present and past and pinpointing the distant origins of longstanding family griefs." Benoit won further praise from Library Journal reviewer Andrea Kempf, who described his character portrayals as "unblinking but affectionate," and hailed Benoit as "a talented new writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of All Saints' Day, p. 571.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of AllSaints' Day, p. 1246.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Andrea Kempf, review of All Saints' Day, p. 127.
New York Times Book Review, November 24, 2002, Barbara Sutton, review of All Saints' Day, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, November 4, 2002, review of AllSaints' Day, p. 62.
Washington Post, December 27, 2002, Carolyn See, review of All Saints' Day, p. C3.*