In the Company of Angels: A Novel

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Overview

Now available in paperback—"To read Kelby's novel is, in its own words, to 'fall into a dream, a flying dream.' To paraphrase and summarize such fine spun fiction must inevitably be as inadequate as any attempt to retell your most amazing dream the morning after." —New York Times Book Review

Scented by chocolate and haunted by war, this compelling novel of dark miracles and angelic visitations offers up a distinctly imaginative new voice in fiction. Marie Claire is a young ...

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Overview

Now available in paperback—"To read Kelby's novel is, in its own words, to 'fall into a dream, a flying dream.' To paraphrase and summarize such fine spun fiction must inevitably be as inadequate as any attempt to retell your most amazing dream the morning after." —New York Times Book Review

Scented by chocolate and haunted by war, this compelling novel of dark miracles and angelic visitations offers up a distinctly imaginative new voice in fiction. Marie Claire is a young French Jew in a Nazi-occupied Belgian town, cared for by her grandmother, who cultivates flowers. A shattering of glass, and Marie Claire's village is in rubble. Her grandmother is dead, everyone is dead. She flees to the root cellar of her grandmother's house and waits. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
Kelby's slim, grim fairy tale exerts a subtle pull . . . the author suddenly stares unblinkingly into one corner of the heart of darkness.
San Francisco Chronicle
Kelby weaves in and out of several character's heads, seamlessly melding fantasy and reality to create a seductive hallucinatory effect.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
[An] impressive debut . . . Kelby . . . displays a rarefied sense of craft throughout this meticulously constructed novel.
New York Times Book Review
Kelby's lovely language fuses sensuous specificity with metaphoric resonance . . . To read Kelby's novel is, in its own words, to fall into a dream, a flying dream. And to paraphrase and summarize such fine spun fiction must inevitably be as inadequate as any attempt to retell your most amazing dream the morning after.
Baltimore Sun
N.M. Kelby, in her first time out, shows what it means to take risks as a novelist . . . She has created a brave and beautiful Book.
Kirkus
Kelby makes her novel debut with a religious fable that will move some greatly...a skillful harvest of symbols.
San Francisco Chronicle
An understated meditation on spirituality in the midst of war's devastation.
Atlantic Monthly
Luscious and heartrending . . . overflows with miracles.
Entertainment Weekly
Kelby's slim, grim fairy tale exerts a subtle pull, and the reticence of most of her narrative makes the final pages . . . appropriately resonant and troubling.
Baltimore Sun
Kelby puts forth divine miracles . . . She has created a brave and beautiful book.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in France during World War II, Kelby's debut novel is a luminous, harrowing tale of wartime horrors and miracles. When seven-year-old Marie Claire's village in France is bombed by the Germans, she survives by burying herself in the root cellar of her grandmother's house. Days later, Anne and Mother Xavier, two Belgian nuns working for the Resistance, rescue her and take her to their convent, near a town in which odd visions and minor miracles are everyday occurrences. Upon her arrival, even stranger things begin to happen: the girl gives off an odor of roses; light seems to emanate from her body; bruises emerge on her flesh. Intertwined with Marie Claire's story is the tale of a Nazi commander's doomed romance with Anne, and Mother Xavier's struggle to come to terms with the fact that her parents have been performing scientific experiments for the Germans. Striking, clear images give the novel a surreal cast: a room filled with doves; ants crawling over the hands of Anne's father, a chocolate maker, as he sits in the ruins of his bombed shop; or Marie Claire's feverish dream in which a mask maker who was her friend in life conducts a macabre puppet show beneath the destroyed village. Such flashes of sensual detail are made even more poignant when contrasted with the atrocities of the war, and Kelby's spare, elliptical prose effectively brings these moments to light, infusing the emotionally and spiritually loaded subject matter with an uncommon intimacy. Saints and Nazis may make strange bedfellows, but Kelby rises to the challenge with considerable command in a haunting debut that erodes the distinctions between waking and dreaming, faith and reason, life and death. Agent, Jo Fagan. (Apr. 4) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786885831
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/24/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 164
  • Sales rank: 1,305,580
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Meet the Author

N. M. Kelby is the winner of a Bush Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Heekin Group Foundation's James Fellowship for the Novel. Her poems and short stories have appeared in numerous journals, including Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope: All-Story Extra and the Mississippi Review. She divides her time between Sarasota, Florida, and Minnetonka, Minnesota.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


               Before the Germans bombed Belgium in 1940, Tournai was a city that creaked under the weight of its own rich history. Conquered by the French, it was thought more beautiful than Paris. Conquered by the English, it was the favored city of King Henry the Eighth.

    It was also a city of God.

    One hundred bell towers, four hundred bells. So many churches, their spires teetering at odd angles, they eclipsed the narrow streets, streets filled with knots of nuns and priests moving about like so many bees.

    God was Tournai's main industry. The banks, the universities, the cafes, the souvenir shops which sold the nearly authentic relics: they all thrived on God. Survived by creating a city devoted to devotion.

    In Tournai, God, apparently, was as common as air.

    The baker said he saw Him in a cherry tart. The milliner, in the eye of a peacock feather. The trash man said he saw Him tumbling down the alleyways in the white grease of the frietzaks, the abandoned paper cones, their twice-fried potatoes eaten long ago. These sightings of God were well documented in newspapers and radio broadcasts. They were proudly spoken of in the streets.

    "Did you know that the barber saw the face of the Virgin on the floor of his shop yesterday?"

    "No, but I heard the butcher found a small cross within the belly of a lamb."

    Everywhere, everyone saw God. How could they not? In Tournai, seeing God was a matter of civic pride.

    Then bombs came. Then soldiers. Then silence.

    Now recruitment posters cover the church doors. Ersatz kommando der waffen! The Germans are asking for help. Support us! they say, and show the enemy in his "true light"—a red devil, the Star of David around his neck. The devil laughs at the cross, crushes Belgium with his pitchfork.

    Some of the priests, their churches in rubble, ask their congregations to consider the Germans' position. Did not the Jews betray our Savior? they ask.

    Ersatz kommando der waffen!

    Since the occupation began, it is said that God has not been seen in Tournai. It is believed that He quietly slipped away. Heartbroken, He eased himself out of the situation, unsure if He would ever return.


Excerpted from In the Company of Angels by N. M. KELBY. Copyright © 2001 by N. M. Kelby. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2004

    Very Inspiring!!

    Although one might find it hard to associate a `fairy tale¿ amidst world war two, this novel made it enticingly so with miracles & angels. This piece had succeeded in detaching it¿s readers from the terrifying possibility of death in a time of war, and inspiring courage, hope and a promise of love¿ Fantastically written!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2003

    Beautifully readable; challenging; lasting

    I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this book up. Some pop culture piece about angels? A serious 'Literary' work, the kind you ingest because it's good for you, like a bitter but beneficial herb? I thought the cover was quite lovely, but...I didn't expect what was inside to be so much more dynamic than its mere design. It's a wonderful book--one of the most gorgeously rendered books I've read lately. But it's also simple, concise, the language straightforward but full of pictures that bloom like the protagonist's startling black irises in the imagination. Yes, it IS about angels--but these are not goody-goody creatures who guide their human peers through trumped-up troubles and into the cheery but holy light. I don't want to give away what is written here, because the delight, the emotional impact, the beauty lies in watching the mystery unfold and probing it, thinking about it, teasing at it with your mind and heart--but I will say that these angels are a tough and tragic breed, and yet as sweet as the chocolate they crave. Read it; read it again. It's a small book, but there's so much in it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2002

    A Treasure For Your Bookshelf and Your Mind

    In the Company of Angels is a light, frothy, book that combines fairytale with mystery. Instead of seeing 'dead people', like in The Sixth Sense, readers will see angels and wonder throughout the book if they are really there. It's a quick, but wonderful, read, which entices you to read it again quickly after you have read it through the first time.

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