Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hanging Angels By Neill Edward Calabro

Hanging Angels By Neill Edward Calabro

I grew up in the South in the 1960s and 70s. I moved to Central Florida during the time of busing. I remember going to school for the first time and being asked, “Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?”  I didn’t have a clue.  I am not exactly sure what busing accomplished in the South. Before busing I walked to a mixed race school, in fact I walked to school with two children, a brother and a sister, and they were black.  After busing, I could no longer walk to school. School was now far away.

My mother made my brother and me ride the bus to make a point.  I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t notice that we were the only white children on the bus. Not sure her point was made. We have two hilarious family photos of my brother. One of him as the only little white boy, and he was as white and blond as possible, at a black child’s birthday party and the other with the reverse. 

All that to say that I enjoy the genre that explores that not so long ago, tumultuous time period.

I love southern literature. I love Faulkner who captures the people so well. I love Harper Lee and her Book. I love Walker Percy, Zora Neale Hurston, Margaret Mitchell, Pat Conroy,and even Fannie Flagg. 

In fact, If you like any of these you may also like the new novel about the south in the 1960s and before: Hanging Angels by Neill Edward Calabro.

This is a book full of the rich imagery of the times. In fact, it had its start as a movie script and that explains much of the rich imagery that has you seeing the book as you read. It is full of scattered diamonds of prose, and some truly inspiring originality. How did the author come up with these ideas?

“With a willowy seasonal change in the landscape, moving the calendar to another month, an ominous magnolia tree sits at the edge of an acre by crossing dirt roads.”  Ominous, indeed! In some ways this novel is the story of what happened at that ominous tree.

It is a truly unique look at racism which asks the question, and leaves you with the question: What if we couldn’t tell what color someone was?

Because for the white Pine family race is going insert itself into their lives without their permission and we are going to find out just what kind of man Jefferson Pine is. It begins with a little boy(white? black?) with a scar around his neck and ends 30 years later with a courtroom drama.

It has moments of darkness reminding me of Flannery O’Connor and moments of whimsy reminding me of Walker Percy. 

Hanging Angels is a new novel in the southern Gothic tradition reminding us that color is not always so easy to discern.

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