‘None But The Righteous’ is an Honest Depiction of the Path to Finding Yourself
What does it mean to be truly and utterly lost? And when you’ve lost your way, how do you go about finding yourself again? None but the Righteous does not answer these questions. It tackles them with nuisance and honesty.
Even before he is set adrift by Hurricane Katrina destroying New Orleans, Young Ham seems to have never known himself. Ham grew up with an always missing mother and a sister whose face he cannot remember. He has only his experience with his mostly business foster mother Ms. Pearl and his brief encounter with the adventurous, cargo train-hopping Mayfly to gauge his sense of identity. Or, so he believes.
Ms. Pearl leaves Ham with a relic that, unknown to the both of them, contains the soul and bones of St. Martin de Porres. St. Martin de Porres guides Ham both mentally and physically through the turmoil of his life and, after being left with nothing, the ghost of the saint is beginning to overtake Ham completely. Ham is faced with a harrowing dilemma: either regain his sense of self or lose everything to St. Martin de Porres.
With strong themes of enduring loss and discovering identity, None But the Righteous focuses on building in-depth and well-rounded characters to bring the novel together.
Readers are allowed to peer into the minds of those outside Ham through an inventive storytelling tactic. St. Martin de Porres, the centuries-dead Catholic saint, is the narrator of this quiet whirlwind of a novel. Through him, readers are able to examine the complexities of every passing person in Ham’s life, which adds depth to the novel’s overall premise.
Everyone, from the free-flowing Mafly to the self-described honorable Ms. Pearl, is given a moment for the reader to fully understand them as not only important figures in the life of Ham, but individuals with their own stories and goals.
In particular, the use of the formerly adventurous, now settled down Mayfly to act as a foil to Ham, was one of the narrative’s greatest strengths.
It’s the way None But the Righteous guides its readers through the ever-elusive act of finding one’s purpose, however, that makes the book stand out.
Ham finds himself at the doorstep of a childhood friend, in the lukewarm embrace of a found family, and on the road with new allies before he finally strikes out on his own. Even then, Ham is unable, like we all are, to find a definite answer to his question.
Ham’s journey is non-linear, indefinite and fluid. He never stops to think that this is it and is always searching to go further, to try something else.
Ham’s fictional dilemma is a real one based on the fact that our identities are always changing and never capable of being pinned down.
Between its characters and the handling of its central message, Nothing But the Righteous is a remarkably real work even with the voice of the mystical St. Martin de Porres guiding its reader.
While the book has many strengths, the use of St. Martin de Porres could have been utilized in a way more central to the plot. Although his perspective was interesting and insightful, St. Martin de Porres’ weaving back out and into his old life while describing Ham’s takes readers out of the narrative at times.
None but the Righteous may be James Chantal’s debut as a novelist, but her distinctive style and fresh insight into what books are capable of make this work a notable breakout.
If you are looking for a supernatural tale stooped in Southern legacy, None But the Righteous is sure to leave you contemplating your own personal truth as you root for Ham to discover his own.