The Angels of Morgan Hill: A Novel

The Angels of Morgan Hill: A Novel

by Donna VanLiere


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250026644
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/17/2006
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 467,583
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Donna VanLiere is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. Her much-loved Christmas Hope series includes The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing, both of which were adapted into movies for CBS Television, The Christmas Secret, The Christmas Journey and The Christmas Hope, which was adapted into a film by Lifetime. She is also the author of The Angels of Morgan Hill and Finding Grace. VanLiere is the recipient of a Retailer's Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, an Audie Award for best inspirational fiction, and a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year. She is a gifted speaker speaks regularly at conferences. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband and their children.

Read an Excerpt

The Angels of Morgan Hill

Chapter One 
The Morgan Hill cemetery was right behind the church, so you can imagine how convenient funerals were at that time. After a message by the preacher, we would simply walk out the back door and say good-bye to the poor dead soul in the casket. On a day of rain, we’d have the funeral service in the church and leave the casket there until the rain let up; at that time the undertakers would come back and bury it. But an eleven o’clock wedding was scheduled on the day we buried Daddy, and apparently the bride did not want his casket up front with her as she exchanged vows with her beloved.
Never in the history of the Morgan Hill Baptist Church had it ever been double booked. The funeral was scheduled for ten o’clock but the rain kept folks in their homes. It was close to ten-thirty when the first mourners arrived, and the bride and her mother had already beautified our tiny building by hanging construction paper bells and hearts at the front of the church. A big red banner that read “Naomi and Cal Forever” was draped over the preaching podium—nice for a wedding, but not exactly proper send-off decorations for a dead man. A handful of mourners sloshed their way into the church. Poor Naomi was beside herself.
“Mama, there is a dead manlayin’ here at the altar!” she sobbed. “He is goin’ to ruin my weddin’!” Naomi’s mother patted and cooed and soothed the best she knew how and greeted the smattering of early wedding guests that trickled through the door with a big, toothy smile as she corralled them to the back pews until further notice.
It was decided we would have to hold the service in the cemetery, but everyone wanted to wait till the rain slowed down to just a drizzle. So to stall for time we sang a few of the hymns that were sung at everybody’s funeral. First we sang “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.” The rain kept coming. Naomi kept wailing. Then we sang “Shall We Gather at the River,” and, by the sight of the water now standing in the cemetery, it seemed we would indeed be gathering at the river very soon. We waited and waited and sang and sang, and the longer we waited and the louder we sang, the more nervous Naomi and her mother became.
We all made a mad dash to the gravesite, praying that the leaves on the trees would somehow keep us dry. They didn’t. We stood like drowned rats huddled around a four-by-seven hole trying to act sad as water soaked clear through to our underpants. Our preacher for the past thirty years had retired, so Mama asked Pete Fletcher if he’d conduct Daddy’s funeral. Pete wasn’t a preacher, he was a farmer and mechanic, and I thought he’d come close to passing out at the thought of sending a dead man to his earthly resting place. Pete tried his best to talk about hope in the resurrection of Christ and being with Daddy again in heaven someday, but to be honest we were all too waterlogged to listen. Four men lowered the casket, the grave straps soggy and slippery in their hands, causing the box to slip and bang, then fall to the bottom with a wet thud. Not one of Morgan Hill’s most touching funerals, but certainly one of the most memorable.
Mama made my seven-year-old brother, John, and me ride with Aunt Dora back to our house. She was Daddy’s only sister and drove all the way from Cleveland, Ohio, for the funeral. Dora was thirty and had fat knees, thick ankles, and
a bad case of being hopelessly single. When a single man, regardless of age or lack of teeth, was anywhere near, she wrapped her fat, sausage arms around John’s neck pretending to be the consummate mothering type. John said he couldn’t wait for her to go back to “Ohi” as soon as possible. But if we hadn’t ridden with Aunt Dora, I wouldn’t have the memory of Milo’s little black face in the back of that beat-up truck etched in my mind today.
We lived in a tiny white farmhouse where mama had been born. It had two bedrooms and a porch that wrapped around two sides of it. The front of the house faced the railroad tracks, which didn’t make any sense because unless you were walking along the tracks or riding on the train, no one ever saw the front of the house. Our main entrance was off the kitchen at the back of the house, which faced the driveway. I was three years old when we moved in. I don’t remember where we lived before that, but Mama always said it wasn’t fit for a mean-tailed dog. I put on some dry clothes while the adults scrambled and fussed and flew around the kitchen, spreading out enough food to feed all of us, plus Naomi and Cal’s wedding reception guests. I fixed a plate and snuck out to the porch with John following behind. One night two years earlier, after Daddy threw Mama into a wall, John became convinced the bogeyman was in our house, under his bed to be exact. I checked under his bed every night. When John learned to talk he had a stammer. He’d get caught on a word and sound like a tractor engine starting in winter. “B-b-b-b-but,” he’d sputter. As he got older the stuttering faded but I always knew when he was afraid because words came hard for him then. If it was just Mama, John, and me at the house he could talk fine, but if Daddy came home it would take John forever to spit something out. Since Daddy died John hadn’t stammered one time.
John didn’t change out of his wet clothes and that galled Mama to no end. “John Charles. Don’t you have enough gumption to get out of them wet clothes?” I never knew if it was really a lack of gumption that bothered Mama, or if it was the fact that John had mannerisms that reminded her of Daddy. Whatever the reason she was determined to give him an extra dose.
“They don’t bother me, Mama. They ain’t that wet.”
“The water’s running down your legs and squishing out between your toes,” she said, pointing to the foot-shaped wet spot on the porch.
John slapped his foot to make another soggy print. “I know. I like it!” Mama rolled her eyes, mumbling something about John not having the gumption God gave a bump on a log, and walked back into the house. Since we’d heard the gumption speech a hundred times before, we dove into our plates and ate like pigs. We watched the rain pour off the front of the porch, stuck our feet under the waterfall that was flowing off the overhang, and never once mentioned Daddy—not that we didn’t want to; we just didn’t know what to say. Sadness for his passing never occurred to us.
Daddy worked as a carpenter (although you’d be hard-pressed to actually find someone who saw as much as a hammer in his hand) and his work took him out of town for weeks at a time. He would often go into Knoxville with Beef and a couple of the boys for work, but somewhere between Knoxville and home the money would be all but gone. Whatever money he hadn’t guzzled or gambled was given to Mama. She’d learned years earlier not to badger him for it because that only made him angry. He was scrawny but he was fast and could lay her out cold with one quick, hard whack with the back of his hand. Mama knew not to fight with him. When he’d hand over what little cash he had left, she’d just take it from him real easy and then sneak away and hide it in a coffee can she kept buried in the backyard.
They married on May 6, 1937, the same day the Hindenburg exploded. Mama would say years later that their marriage “was as doomed as that gigantic blimp.” I arrived nine months later to very little, if any, fanfare. (By that time Mama knew what she’d gotten herself into and adding another life to a home shared with Daddy wasn’t exactly a reason for celebration.) When Mama was young she was smart, funny, and pretty with long chestnut hair, blue eyes, a fine-drawn face, and China doll skin. She walked to school every morning with her best friend, Margaret, and a boy named Joe Cannon. Margaret used to tease my mother that Joe was sweet on her but if that was true Joe never did anything about it. He was too shy and backward to do anything more than walk to and from school with her. As people in the community would always say, nobody ever knew “how pretty Francine Parker ever ended up with Lonnie Gable.” Even then, my daddy was a cocky, scrawny, know-it-all who appeared to be on the fast track to nowhere.
Mama had lost her own mother six years earlier so who knows, maybe if her mother had been around she wouldn’t have been craving the attention Daddy gave her and run off with him after graduation. But Mama was never one for getting into a mess and then looking to somebody else to get her out of it. I think she probably hoped Daddy would just leave on one of his “jobs” and never come home, but that never happened. I think she saw his death as freedom from a whole lot of trouble.
John and I stayed quiet on the porch and gobbled down lemon pie, chocolate pie, and German chocolate cake like survivors of a POW camp, but if anybody came out on the porch we’d bring the food to our mouths, look real sad, and sigh. Every now and then Mama peaked her head out the door and we looked up at her with pitiful hound-dog eyes. “Jane, are you and John getting enough to eat?” We nodded our heads, glancing at our plates that looked as if they’d been picked over by vultures. It seemed a pathetic act but if it brought her some sort of peace to think that we were indeed sad in spirit over Daddy’s passing then we’d play along.
Aunt Dora popped her fat face out the door above Mama’s and said, “Your daddy’s with the angels.” We nodded again and looked somber as she and Mama closed the screen door behind them.
Henry didn’t pretend though. Henry Walker had three grown children, fine tufts of hair at the top of his balding head that blew in the wind like the feathers of a baby bird, and a heart bigger than anybody I’d ever known. He’d tell John and me the greatest stories we’d ever heard. Our favorite was of the Three Musketeers. We never knew if he was making most of the story up, but we always believed that we were two of the three musketeers saving women and children from peril.
“I’m gonna write a book someday,” I would tell Henry. “And you’ll be in it.”
“Make sure you tell people how good looking I am,” he would always say.
Mama didn’t like me to talk about it. “There’s work to do, Jane,” she’d say. “You can’t work while you’re dreaming.” I learned to keep my book ideas for Henry since he was my best friend.
Henry never said things like “Jane, your daddy sure did love you” or “Jane, you were the apple in your daddy’s eye” as so many other people did. He walked onto the porch, gave me one of his great big bear hugs—one that made me feel like I was being squeezed by Heaven itself, and said, “Hey, Pretty Girl.” He always called me Pretty Girl although that was far from accurate. I could see myself in the mirror; I knew what I looked like—I was as plain as my name. I had thin, uneven, short brown hair from the haircuts that Mama gave me, ears that stuck out like wing nuts, and freckles across my nose. I was common and ungraceful, a far cry from pretty, but somehow when Henry called me Pretty Girl I believed him.
“We saw them coloreds that moved to town,” I said.
“They got ’em a scrawny little colored boy no older than me,” John said. “He’s got great big eyes and a pitiful, hound-dog face.”
“He don’t look like that no how,” I said. “What’re they doing out at the Cannons’, Henry?”
“Helping put out their tobacco.”
“What do colored folk eat?” John said. He always could ask the dumbest questions.
“They eat what we eat,” Henry said.
“What do they smell like?”
“What kind of fool question is that?” I said. “They smell like people!”
“Aunt Dora says they’re gonna shake things up,” John said. “How they gonna shake things up, Henry?” That was a legitimate question.
“I don’t know,” Henry said. But I could tell by the way he looked at us that Henry did know what Aunt Dora meant. He just didn’t want to talk about it. He put his arm around my shoulder. “I sure am sorry you lost your father, Jane.”
For the first time all day I realized that maybe I should be sad. Not that my daddy had died, but that I’d never really had one in the first place. When I looked at Henry I realized he knew all about my daddy, even things that I didn’t know. It struck me that somebody who walked on this earth for twenty-eight years wasn’t even missed in death . . . not even by his own family.
Copyright © 2006 by Donna VanLiere. All rights reserved.


Excerpted from The Angels of Morgan Hill by VanLiere, Donna Copyright © 2006 by VanLiere, Donna. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

From Donna VanLiere—the author of the beloved Christmas Hope series—comes a moving novel of faith, family, and destiny.

You might think that what you're about to read has a great deal to do with my father and growing up poor in east Tennessee, but there is so much more—what captured my heart was the hope of belonging and the dream of family. The woman I am has a great deal to do with that ninth year of my life. It started out as any other year, nothing extraordinary, but as each day unfolded it became remarkable in every way. There are times when I'm still amazed we made it through. It has been said that every life has a story. This is my story…—From the Prologue

Jane Gable thinks 1947 will be like every other year in Morgan Hill, Tennessee but but it's the year everything changes. Jane first lays eyes on young Milo Turner the day that her abusive, alcoholic father is buried in the Morgan Hill cemetery. The Turners are the first black family ever to move into the area, and while their presence challenges the comfort of many in the small, tight-knit community, Jane and her brother, John, have found new friends.

Then tragedy strikes the Turner household, and the Gable family is asked to make a decision that could rip their world apart. One path might open up a whole new world and bring them closer than ever. Or it might bring them nothing but trouble and heartache. On their journey, Jane discovers that angels are all around us, every day, in the most extraordinary—and ordinary—ways.

The Angels of Morgan Hill is filled with unforgettable characters who show us the ways and means of the heart and prove that even in the darkest hours, we are never truly alone.

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Angels of Morgan Hill 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters & story were very real. I got attached to this family and didn't want it to end. I've read several of Donna VanLiere's books and this one is just as touching as the others. I would recommend it to everyone young or old.
luanne517 More than 1 year ago
Realistic setting and feelings of how strong racism was. Strong characters that you either really dislike or really care about. You want to go and take Milo home with you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several books this winter and I am an avid reader. This book may perhaps be my very favorite book of all time. The author did such a great job that it did not seem to be fiction. She is outstanding and I plan to read her Christmas Shoe series now.
Emmery on LibraryThing 26 days ago
I loved this book. it shows how a white family befriends a black family. But because of racial discrimination, the befriended family dies, leaving a young boy behind. The white family adopts the young orphaned boy. The father of the white family died a couple of years before, so it was up to the mother to raise the children. It is so beautiful how the main character believes in the right of people, although sometimes rude, she will fight for her new adopted brother. People made fun of the family, but the family ignores them and treats the adopted boy as one of their own. I really recommend to read this book.
moonshineandrosefire on LibraryThing 29 days ago
It's 1947. Nine-year-old Jane Gable first lays eyes on Milo Turner the day her alcoholic and abusive father is laid to rest. The Turner family is the first black family to live in Morgan Hill and Jane can't understand why people are so bitter. For Jane and her brother John, Milo is just a new friend and playmate.Then tragedy strikes the Turner family and the Gables are asked to make a decision that could rip their family apart. One path may open up a whole new world for them and bring them closer together, the other may bring them trouble and heartache. As Jane struggles to make sense of the many changes that have come to her community, she will discover that she is surrounded by many angels who are ready to help her in the most ordinary and extraordinary ways.I really liked this book and thought that it was a very easy read. I enjoyed this book so much because everything comes right. This is the second time that I've read this book and I give it an A+!
tipsister on LibraryThing 30 days ago
The Angels of Morgan Hill, by Donna Van Liere is an extremely sweet book that kept me turning the pages. The narrator shifts between a few characters but the principle narrator is Jane, a nine-year-old girl who has just lost her father. The story is set in the late 1940¿s in a small town in Tennassee. The times are hard, the jobs are scarce, and life isn¿t easy for the Gable family. After Jane and John¿s father dies, their mother, Fran, struggles to raise her kids while dealing with the news that there is another baby on the way. When a black family moves to town, the Gable family¿s life is turned upside down. Fran forms a friendship with Addy, despite what people think. I don¿t want to give anything away but when the worst happens, the people of Morgan Hill come together to make things right. They are the Angels of Morgan Hill. The core group of characters are so wonderful to each other that it makes me long for a tight knit community like that.While the ending was a little too neat and tidy, the story moved along at such a rapid pace, with so much happening in the span of a year, it was a relief to have a tidy ending! I didn¿t know what to expect from Donna Van Liere but I can say that this is a beautiful story with some good lessons. It isn¿t perfect but it¿s worth a read.
KathyWoodall on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Much like Ms VanLiere other books, a true tear jerker. The setting is in the 1940's in East Tennessee in a small town of Morgan Hill. Told from the view point of Jane a 9 year girl.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow i feel in love when i first read this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thumper74 More than 1 year ago
This book was an amazing find and my favorite summer read of 2012. I loved the characters and storyline...not overly saccharine but you wanted the right people to come out ahead for all the right reasons. This is not a very lengthy book but you will find yourself thinking about it long after you finish it. Don't hesitate to get this one! A great read on the plane, at the pool, lake or cabin!
Deb76 More than 1 year ago
I have read The Christmas Shoes and the other two books in that series written by Donna VanLiere. I chose The Angels of Morgan Hill because it sounded like a heartwarming story. I wasn't aware that it was written by the same author, until after I purchased it. I could not wait to see if I loved it as much as I loved her other books. I did! The topic of racism has always disturbed me, but this book dealt with the realities of racism, while showcasing the good and kind people who stood together against it. I loved all the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GINGERDAWN More than 1 year ago
There are many writers who are able to write a good story, which can be artful with an articulate voice, or put words masterfully on a page. Yet, Donna VanLiere reaches a new limit of magic with The Angels of Morgan Hill. She writes not from her heart but from her soul! Every book that I have read by Mrs. VanLiere teaches a meaningful lesson on life and opens doors to my own world of living. The story begins in Morgan Hills, Tennessee in 1947. It's an all-white community in which nine year old Jane Gable's abusive alcoholic father is buried. She then sees her first African American boy named Milo. Mrs. VanLiere threads a tale of small town life, tragedy, hate, love, and change that quilts the human heart into a beautiful story. One of the most touching scenes in the story is between Addy and Fran. Addy tells Fran of a conversation that she had with her mother at the age of twelve while picking cotton. I said, mama, I'm tired.' And she hollered out. "Of course you's tired. We's all tired." But you ain't got no choice. You didn't pick this was chosen for it, and there ain't nobody said it was gonna be easy. They'll be times when you'll be hot and tired and nearly dead, and nobody will offer you a cup of cold water.but some will, and they'll offer just enough to keep you's runnin'. They won't be a lot of peoples along the way, but they' ll be some and Yo Mama will always be one of them.'" How true Mrs. VanLiere, we each carry that cup of water and the choice of what we do with it. In Romans 12: 4-8 it states, "For as in one body we have many members. And not all the members have the same function so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another." Paul's concept of how we should live and work together is clearly exemplified in this story as Fran adopts Milo and just when Fran is tired, struggling, and lost, a small host of characters from Morgan Hill appear to offer that needed cup of water. Milo must make a choice: if he should live with his own kind or live with a white family. The choice that Henry made long ago to leave or stay at Morgan Hill and that special spot on Widow's Mountain where lives are changed and life is reexamined. The choice of each town member of Morgan Hill as the school year began with a colored child. Then the change in Aunt Dora ties and creates the binding of the quilt of Morgan Hill the outer binding that Mrs. VanLiere frames the story with. I must admit, I finished this book in less than two days and with many boxes of tissues. Mrs. VanLiere has an amazing gift much like Paul. God gave him the ability to share effectively the gospel of Christ. Mrs. VanLiere is not an apostle or even an evangelist but God has blessed her with opportunity to write stories of the heart and of the soul. Stories that contain themes of human choice are ever so present. No matter what you look like, your faith or where you come from we each have a tiny part in this world of life. Maybe that is why her books are so compelling, natural and loving. I cannot state in words how highly I recommend this book but I do know that lives can be blessed and touched with a simple book and when an author shares a little bit of their passion and soul.
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Mmonikque More than 1 year ago
This book is really touching. The action makes you shiver and makes you put another price on life, on the meaning of being a mom, a person, a soul...Read it and you'll step into another world, a world that can impress you!
rpeterson7 More than 1 year ago
Very predictable story - glad it was a short audio book. Not one of my favorites, but nice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LovesBooksKW More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful to read. Good story line, strong characters, and a lesson to be learned.
NLussier More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; my first for this author. The story was well told and held my attention to the end. It is not terribly long, so it was a great, fast read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MarionMarchetto_author More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because of the word Angels in the title, knowing nothing about the author or her other works. After the opening paragraph, however, I was hooked. Set in Tennessee during the 1950s, Jane Gable (the 9-year old narrator) tells the story of the day her daddy was buried and how she and her younger brother saw their first black family. Through humorous anecdotes of life in the South, we learn of the contempt of some for the 'colored' sharecroppers and how far these folks would go to get rid of them. When Milo (the young black child) loses his family in a fire, it is Jane's pregnant mother who takes him in as she tries to keep a deathbed promise to Milo's mother. Through trials and tribulation, Jane's mother stands firm in her resolve but it is Jane herself that pushes the town to action when she refuses to attend school because Milo isn't allowed into an all-white school. What happens after that is purely heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. A captivating read that will have some reaching for the tissue box. This work deserves four and a half stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago