The Angels’ Share by James Markert (review)


There’s just something about a 1930’s setting, in the depths of the post-prohibition Great Depression, and The Angels’ Share has that something in spades.  It is a coming of age novel and a family drama, filled with secrets, discoveries, prejudice, legacies and first love all in a dying Southern town.

William McFee has yet to make anything of himself, though he works on becoming a reporter while secretly dreaming of re-opening the family distillery that used to be the lifeblood of the town of Twisted Tree, Kentucky.  His efforts to become a published journalist are part of what drives the plot forward, when a man that might be a Messiah is buried in the Potter’s field next door and twelve of his followers camp out in the aging house.

In clumsier hands, the McFee family would have been overblown caricatures.  But here, Markert gives a more subtle portrayal of a father who has descended into the bottle to cope with the death of a child, and the strained relationship with his oldest son.   Their efforts to learn more, together, about the man in the Potter’s field and his connection to the youngest brother’s death bring out truths from the past and lead toward the climactic scenes of this story.

In the end, the author has taken us on a journey through a pivotal time in William’s life, as his father’s past comes to light.  And that journey includes so much – first kisses, gangsters, guns, bums and saints, murder and miracles.

Highly recommended, particularly for readers with an appreciation for gritty fiction set in the rough times of Depression Era small town America.  Definitely a book that will be on my shelves to be re-read, The Angels’ Share has fueled my desire to read more Erskine Caldwell.

The Angels’ Share by James Markert | Thomas Nelson, Jan 2017 | paperback, 320 pages

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