Worthy is Worthy Giberson, and his town is Old Kane, Illinois. Spanning 1925 to 1950, Worthy’s town sees all manner of events, from Worthy and Willa’s fourteen-year-old daughter Chastity dying in childbirth, to their son Tick going off to become a revival preacher, to their grandson Cappy taking the family skill at storytelling and turning into a reporter. There are even a few mysteries along the way, such as the identity of Cappy’s father. World War II has its effect on Old Kane as well, as when Cappy’s childhood friend Beany goes off to war but Cappy must stay home to work the farm.
This is a delightful book that completely snuck up on me. Rolens captures small town life where characters, not events, propel the plot. Old Kane is populated with its share of whimsical eccentrics, but they are never caricatures. Particularly enjoyable are Cappy’s attempts to become a reporter and tamp down his tendencies towards exaggeration. Needless to say, dogged determination and enough stories to write about goings on in town win the day. Although it is affectionate about small-town life, it isn’t cloying, and there are enough unflinching looks at human behavior to make it honest and realistic.