The Angels Of Morgan Hill
In 1947, nine-year-old Jane Gable is attending the funeral of her drunken, abusive father when she sees the face of a black person up close for the first time. The face belongs to Milo Turner, a small boy who with his family has just come to the small Tennessee town of Morgan Hill. Milo’s mother and Jane’s mother, Fran, soon become friends – leading to a promise that will expose the Gables to hostility and danger, but that will also turn them into the sort of family for which Jane has longed.
Most of this novel is narrated by the adult Jane, though occasionally, and jarringly, the narration switches to the third person when dealing with incidents the young Jane did not personally witness. Jane’s voice is an informal, refreshingly unsentimental one, and Jane herself is feisty and courageous, tangling with a mean drunk on one occasion and staging her own sit-in on another. Fran Gable, emotionally scarred from years of abuse yet still proud and independent, is another appealing character, as are Joe Cannon, Fran’s childhood friend, and Henry Walker, the kindly storeowner who befriends the Gable family. This is no idealized small town, though; it has its share of nasty characters, as the Gables are all too aware.
The Angels of Morgan Hill being an inspirational novel, its ending is never in doubt, but VanLiere’s compassion for her characters and her eye for the comic – a funeral marred by a downpour and a wailing bride, a Christmas pageant where a squash plays the role of the Baby Jesus – make this an exceptionally enjoyable read.