Childlike Chanda has spent her life on the uptown New Orleans estate where she was born. Both sheltered and molested (by her Uncle Aldo, for whom she seems to harbor no ill will), Chanda lives an oddly charmed existence well into adulthood. Her cloistered life ends when her companion, whom she knows as the Old Woman, dies just as Hurricane Katrina overcomes the city.
In the second novel by Sarah K. Inman ’93, Chanda is turned out into the apocalyptic city, where she drifts among holed-up wealthy people, patrolling militias, desperate refugees, and the predatory press combing the wreckage for the next best victim. The young woman’s innocence is her protection as she is embraced and protected by strangers who see her as a savant. Chanda speaks in simple declarations of fact, truisms passed down by the Old Woman, taglines from tea bags, instructions from her yoga teacher.
“’You are so brave,” Adam said, moving to touch the man’s shoulder.
“Courage is the foremost of all virtues, for on it all others depend,” Chanda repeated the words she recalled pulling from a cracked fortune cookie.
Published by NOLAFugees Press, The Least Resistance is part of an effort (see NOLAFugees.com) to provide an alternative chronicle of post-Katrina New Orleans. Inman has chosen a compelling and unlikely heroine of the aftermath of the disaster. Literal and clear-eyed, Chanda is the most objective of observers. Ultimately she comes to personify the spirit of the city, as her cryptic pronouncements are interpreted as pearls of wisdom and her calm in the face of calamity is a signpost of hope.
Like Chanda, the book is deceptively simple and, along with its unblinking portrayal of New Orleans in the throes of disaster, offers inspiration where there would, at first glance, appear to be none.