It is the mid-1950s in Quarrytown, Georgia. In the slum known as the Ape Yard, hope's last refuge is a boardinghouse where a handful of residents dream of a better life. Earl Whitaker, who is white, and Tio Grant, who is black, are both teenagers, both orphans, and best friends. In the same house live two of the most important adults in the boys' lives: Em Jojohn, the gigantic Lumbee Indian handyman, is notorious for his binges, his rat-catching prowess, and his mysterious departures from town. Jayell Crooms, a gifted but rebellious architect, is stuck in a loveless marriage to a conventional woman intent on climbing the social ladder.
Crooms's vision of a new Ape Yard, rebuilt by its own residents, unites the four-and puts them on a collision course with Doc Bobo, a smalltown Machiavelli who rules the community like a feudal lord. Jeff Fields's exuberantly defined characters and his firmly rooted sense of place have earned A Cry of Angels an intensely loyal following. Its republication, more than three decades since it first appeared, is cause for celebration.
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This is one of the best books I've read in a fairly active reading life. The book has been recently reprinted by the University of Georgia Press which I'm glad to see as it should be considered a classic among southern novels and/or coming of age novels. The young protagonist lives with a great-aunt and many other engrossing characters in a boarding house she runs for the unwanted elderly. There is plenty of tension in the plot if you're looking to be pulled through that way and the characters are enthralling both for their virtues and their very evident flaws. When I first read the book I did a search for Jeff Fields, eager to read whatever he'd written. Turns out this was his only book (to date, one hopes! Come on, Jeff!). This book should be on the lips of everyone listing one of the top twenty novels of American lit in the 20th century. Read it, everyone.
I can't believe this book is not being talked about. Oprah should have this on her list! Outstanding. The character study is genuine, the stories inside the story are funny, witty and deep. Loved this book. Could not put it down. Jeff Fields...where have you been all my life!