For over a decade, syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been spending several months a year in Southwest Louisiana, deep in the heart of Cajun Country. Unlike many other writers who have parachuted into the swampy paradise for a few days or weeks, Rheta fell in love with the place, bought a second home and set in planting doomed azaleas and deep roots. She has found an assortment of beautiful people in a homely little town called Henderson, right on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp.
These days, much is labeled Cajun that is not, and the popularity of the unique culture's food, songs and dance has been a mixed blessing. The revival of French Louisiana's traditional music and cuisine often has been cheapened by counterfeits. Confused pilgrims sometimes look to New Orleans for a sampler platter of all things Cajun. Close, but no cigar.
Poor Man's Provence helps define what's what through lively characters and stories. The book is both personal odyssey and good reporting, travelogue and memoir, funny and frank. This beguiling place is as exotic as it gets without a passport. The author shares what keeps her coming home to French Louisiana.
And as NPR commentator Bailey White observes in her foreword, "Both Rheta's readers and the people she writes about will be comfortable, well fed, highly entertained, and happy they came to Poor Man's Provence."