“You are coming with us,” said our friends Merrilee and Todd several years ago. “You love food like we do, and we know all the best places to eat in New Orleans.” To make sure we actually went on the trip we had discussed for years, Merrilee made all the arrangements—flights, hotel, the planning of 21 delicious meals at classic NOLA restaurants. We graciously submitted (and handed over our cash to pay for our share.)
It was a wacky, weight-gaining trip. We didn’t see as many tourist sites as we had planned on—the meals and raw oyster happy hours didn’t allow a lot of time for museums. We did wander the French Quarter and the French Market every day in search of Merrilee’s elusive Mardi Gras t-shirt. The aquarium wowed us, as did the zoo. And there was the unforgettable limo ride to a swamp tour, complete with the Vietnamese French bakery items spread out on the trunk of the limo for our feasting pleasure.
When Katrina hit, part of me wanted desperately to get back to New Orleans. Another part wanted to simply remember those beautiful fall days without the new reality to sully the picture. I was pleasantly surprised then to be immersed back in NOLA thanks to Kristin Billerbeck’s new book, A Billion Reasons Why, which I received free from Thomas Nelson via booksneeze.com.
When offered Billerbeck’s book, I grabbed it because I’ve always loved her writing. She was the original Christian chick lit writer, complete with the snarky heroine. A Billion Reasons Why displays Billerbeck’s wit, but I think it falls more into the pure romance category than into chick lit. I can’t help rooting for Katie, who rediscovers her NOLA roots and the man who sent her fleeing from the place to start with. It’s a perfect curl-up-in-a-snowstorm book, with quirky characters and the all’s-right-with-the-world ending.
The book’s NOLA references, including beignets, crawfish, Cafe du Monde, the Garden District, and the streetcar, brought back wonderful memories of our own trip. But it also reminded me that Hurricane Katrina had occurred, and the poorer parts of NOLA have yet to recover.
If you want some fun, light reading from an author who makes her characters come alive, pick up A Billion Reasons Why. If you want to make New Orleans a better place for real people to live, check out CDC58:12 or New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to lend a hand as a volunteer. Or help sponsor a Mennonite Central Committee worker who is advocating for justice for the poor in NOLA. There’s a billion reasons why we should still care about New Orleans, and almost that many ways to help. Dig in!