Mar 3, 2009

Book Review: Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

Dirty Little Angels
In this character-driven novel, Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa, we meet sixteen-year-old Hailey, who wants a sign that God is listening to her prayers to help her family. She has tried prayer, as her mother taught her to, but life is still harsh in New Orleans.

Hailey’s father has been laid off from work and spends his time in the pool hall and with another woman; Hailey’s mother is confined to bed after an injury to her back; the parents are sleeping separately, and the threat of a divorce hangs in the air. Her older brother Cyrus has been arrested several times, carries brass knuckles in his pocket, and hangs out with high school kids who smoke pot and drink.

When Moses the preacher, a man with a violent past, enters their lives, he doesn’t lead them out to a “promised land,” however, but into violence, crime, and personal danger. In the end, when Hailey's brother Cyrus is threatened, Hailey makes a crucial decision. Does Hailey become a Dirty Little Angel?

It’s easy to become involved with the main character - her angst and her confusion about friends, sex, and religion. The dialogue, setting, and action in the novel gives the reader a good sense of time and place. Most of the book seems to simply set the stage and unveil character, and we wonder where it all will lead. If you persist to the end of the novel, you will be well rewarded with the last chapters of the book.

The author has described his novel as “southern gothic with traditional elements of the grotesque. It's character-driven, though a plot does develop. It is a bit violent, though I try my best not to glorify the violence. I like gritty books that don't have a tidy ending, so don't expect an Oprah-style novel.”

Very easy reading, fascinating characterizations, and a strangely satisfying ending.

Book provided by the author, for my objective review.

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