BINGO – Travel
The G. B. Bacchanal Carnival is a travelling carnival that makes stops all around the Great Depression Era South. They have everything a carnival should: tasty treats, games that may or may not be rigged, dangerous feats from dazzling performers, and oddities from around the world. This carnival just happens to be owned by a demon from the underworld who feeds on children’s souls trying to find the one person who can stop her. Liza Meeks is the newest addition to the carnival. She’s a young Black woman trying to find her family after they abandoned her who can also communicate with animals. Using those skills and the help of her new carnival family, Liza endeavors to put an end to the evil plaguing Bacchanal.
What a set up, right?! Unfortunately, Henry’s Bacchanal is a mess. The story meanders through the plot much like the carnival ambles through the South trying to find a good place to land. But unlike the carnival, the plot of Bacchanal rarely finds solid ground to land on. The entire novel feels like a stream of consciousness retelling of story with random off shoots here and there into characters’ backstories that frequently don’t serve the main plot. The entire thing needed some revision and reorganization.
Despite a plot that felt jumbled and meandering, Henry does raise some interesting points throughout the novel about race and class. The face of the carnival is a white man, Clay, yet the majority of the carnival workers are Black, including the second in command, Jamey. This causes tension in many of the cities they visit through especially with local police. Henry also hits on themes of the role and importance of parents, valuing one’s ancestry, and self-acceptance. There are quite a few excellent characters in Bacchanal such as Ishe, Bombadier, and Hope who exemplify and drive these themes (all secondary characters, though) that unfortunately get lost in the plot.